A group of philanthropic organizations and donors joined together to erase more than $35 million of medical debt for Arkansas residents. The announcement, made during a virtual town hall hosted by Arkansas Asset Funders Network (AR AFN), Arkansas Community Institute (ACI), and Hope Policy Institute (HPI), aims to draw attention to the issues of medical and court costs on Arkansas individuals earning lower incomes.
The virtual gathering, moderated by Talk Business and Politics host Roby Brock, provided an overview of medical debt and court costs; described how debt cycles disproportionately harm lower income communities, ALICE households, and people of color; and elevated federal, state, and hospital-led policy recommendations that could help alleviate and prevent debt traps. It also highlighted how the court system, state legislature, and local governments could enact changes to end the criminalization of poverty and reform debt collection practices.
Heather Larkin, Arkansas Community Foundation
Roby Brock, Talk Business and Politics
Bill Bynum, Hope Credit Union
Joanna Smith-Ramani, The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program
Signe-Mary McKernan, Urban Institute
Professor Kevin Ryan, Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Neil Sealy, Arkansas Community Institute
The Honorable Rita F. Bailey, Maumelle/Jacksonville District Court Judge
Cecille Doan, Center for Arkansas Legal Services
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