Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘debt’

Photo: Georgia State University.
Latonya Young was able to finish college after Kevin Esch, her Uber passenger, secretly paid off previous school costs.

This feel-good story was widely reported, but just in case you missed it, I want you to know that once upon a time when an Uber driver mentioned to a passenger that she couldn’t finish college because of a debt for classes already taken, the passenger knew he had to help out. And — secretly at first — he did. But it may have been the ongoing friendship and support that had the biggest effect.

Sydney Page has the story at the Washington Post. “Latonya Young, a 44-year-old single mother of three, received a bachelor’s degree [in May]. It was a lifelong goal — and she credits one of her Uber passengers with making it possible.

“She met the passenger three years ago when she pulled over in downtown Atlanta to pick him up. Kevin Esch, who had just come from an Atlanta United soccer game, got into her car. The two started chatting.

“ ‘The conversation was easy and felt authentic,’ said Esch, 45.

“He shared details about his recent divorce, and Young — whose marriage ended in 2011 — offered advice.

“During the half-hour ride to Esch’s home, he learned that Young, who had been an Uber driver for three years, was working late that night because she needed money to pay a utility bill.

“And he learned something else: Young wanted to be the first member of her family to graduate from college. Although Young started taking classes at Georgia State University in 2010, she dropped out a year later because she couldn’t pay the tuition.

“Once they arrived at his home, Esch, an estate manager, tipped Young $150 — enough to cover the utility bill — and gave her his phone number.

“ ‘She promised me that she would go back to school,’ he said, adding that he asked her to keep him informed throughout the enrollment process. It was the start of an unexpected friendship.

“After the Uber ride, ‘I had my mind made up that I wanted to go back to school,’ she said. ‘He motivated me.’

“But a few weeks later, when Young tried to re-enroll at Georgia State, she was told that she wasn’t permitted to register until her balance from eight years earlier was paid in full. She owed $693 — a sum she couldn’t afford.

“When she told Esch about the financial hold, he immediately went to the university, without Young’s knowledge, and paid off her debt.

‘I didn’t want that to be a roadblock, because it was something that I could change,’ Esch said. ‘I was in a place to be able to do it, and it was the right thing to do.’ …

“ ‘I was in shock,’ Young said. ‘This person barely knew me, and yet he wanted to help me.’

“She vowed to pay him back, but his response was: ‘Pay me back by graduating.’

“Young was grateful for the support, she said, after years of working multiple jobs and putting off her education. …

“ ‘It was like I was stuck inside a box and couldn’t get out. I was just trying to do whatever I had to do to take care of my kids,’ Young said, adding that she was also in a car accident in 2015, which further set her back financially. …

“After meeting Esch, though, ‘I felt it was time for me to do something for myself, and to set an example for my kids,’ Young said. Plus, she added, ‘I wanted to remain a woman of my word and do exactly what I told Kevin I was going to do.’

“She re-enrolled in courses, and in December 2019, Young received her associate’s degree in criminal justice from Georgia State’s Perimeter College. Esch was there on graduation day, cheering her on in the stands. …

“Still, ‘I knew I wasn’t finished,’ she said. Getting a bachelor’s degree was her ultimate goal, ‘so I went straight ahead. Not only was I aiming for that, but I was aiming to raise my GPA as much as I could before I graduated.’

“Young continued with her studies while working part time as a substitute teacher, as well as a hairstylist. She also received support from the Jeanette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund, which offers financial aid to low-income women older than 35 pursuing postsecondary education. …

“ ‘The funding helped me get through the hardships,’ Young said, adding that it was often difficult to manage being a single mother while working two jobs and keeping up with her classes. …

“Despite the challenges, though, Young graduated with her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Georgia State’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies on May 6. Of course, alongside her family, Esch was in the stands once again — beaming with joy.”

Read the rest of the story at the Post, here.

Read Full Post »

The United Church of Christ is one denomination erasing medical debt for strangers. A recent campaign led by the church abolished more than $26 million in medical debt throughout New England.

This is such a great idea. It shouldn’t be necessary in a country rich enough for CEOs to earn billions of dollars, but that’s where we are. Today’s story is about churches that have taken it on themselves to relieve struggling patients of intolerable burdens by buying up medical debt for pennies on the dollar.

In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Elizabeth Bruenig writes, “Vanessa Matos couldn’t believe what she was reading. ‘I was like, OK, this is a scam,’ she recalled of the letter she received in February. …

“Ms. Matos’s medical debt — more than $900 owed because of complications from surgery at the Massachusetts hospital where she had worked as a nurse — had been forgiven by strangers at a church she had never been to.

“Adam Mabry, the lead pastor of that congregation, Aletheia Church, a multiethnic, 1,400-member Boston-area Christian community, doesn’t know Ms. Matos, and she doesn’t know him; the two have never spoken. …

“Aletheia worked through RIP Medical Debt, a charitable organization founded in 2014 by two former debt collection executives, Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton. It uses donations to buy portfolios of medical debt at a fraction of their value — and then forgives it.

“Debt is a particularly destructive consequence of an American health care system that treats medical care as a consumer good. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey in 2018 found that 67 percent of Americans worry about paying for unexpected medical bills. …

“In just societies, these debts do not exist. But in our society, charity must stand in for justice so long as the latter is in short supply.

“Partners of RIP Medical Debt need not raise the actual amount of money they intend to relieve in debt, because the price of debt reflects what collectors could recover — far less than is owed. That means a buyer can eliminate the debt for much less money than the debtor could.

RIP Medical Debt estimates that just one dollar can purchase, and relieve, $100 in medical debt.

“So with a series of relatively moderate fund-raising efforts and donations from corporations, nonprofit and religious groups, and individuals, RIP Medical Debt said, it has been able to eliminate almost $2.7 billion in medical debt.

“Some religious congregations … grasp what our legislators can’t: The cost of survival in this country is unconscionable, and we all share a moral obligation to do something about it. …

“Forgiving medical debt has managed to ally very different Christians behind the same cause.

“Mr. Mabry, for example, cheekily described his theological stance as ‘historically boring and orthodox,’ even evangelical. Most people ‘would associate social concern with progressivism and maybe theological liberalism,’ he said, but ‘the great majority of actual social programs are funded and executed by really frustratingly conservative, boring, historic, orthodox people.’

“The Rev. Traci Blackmon is associate general minister of justice and local church ministries for the United Church of Christ, a fairly liberal denomination. ‘The U.C.C. has no rigid formulation of doctrine or attachment to creeds or structures,’ the church’s website says. ‘Its overarching creed is love.’

“A recent campaign led by the church abolished more than $26 million in medical debt throughout New England, and the church plans to expand efforts to include the entire country. …

“ ‘We’re buying somewhere close to $100 worth of debt for a dollar,’ she told me, ‘and when you think about how many people’s credit is being ruined, how much access is being denied people because they can’t pay that bill, and I can come and pay your $5,000 bill with $12 — that’s not just.’ …

“The trouble with medical debt is that it is a consequence of the way our health care system is structured, with individuals owing, even in the best case, some out-of-pocket costs for their care. Debt may be eliminated today, but more will begin accumulating tomorrow unless drastic changes are made. …

“There is an apocryphal statement often attributed to Saint Augustine, who helped lay the foundations of modern Christian theology: ‘Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.’ “

More at the New York Times, here.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: