District 1 News: Councilman Wilson
Hello everyone, I’m happy to share that last month, City Council approved my resolution authorizing the City of Pittsburgh’s entry into a partnership with R.I.P. Medical Debt (RIPMD) to purchase and relieve medical debt owed by Pittsburghers. At the end of last year, I had allocated $1 million dollars from the city’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds for this purpose. In Pittsburgh, RIPMD has calculated that an allocation of $1 million could discharge an estimated $115 million of health care debt owed by thousands of Pittsburghers. Providing relief at this scale, where $1 can discharge up to $115 of burdensome medical debt, is plain common sense. Coming out of a global pandemic, Pittsburghers deserve such direct relief.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 58% of debts recorded in collections were for a medical bill. This makes health care debt the most common form of debt on consumer credit records and the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States of America. Many Pittsburghers with health care debt are uninsured or underinsured and are experiencing financial hardship in the wake of COVID-19. In addition, Black and brown communities in Pittsburgh have been disproportionately impacted both financially and medically by COVID-19 and resulting health care debts.
Now that R.I.P. Medical Debt has been chosen as the City of Pittsburgh’s vendor for this debt relief program, it can start buying medical debt and relieving it for individuals who qualify, based on my legislation’s criteria. First, all potential recipients of health care debt relief must be residents of the City of Pittsburgh. They must also meet at least one of the following three criteria: (1) have a household income less than three times the federal poverty level, (2) have a household income that is at 65% of Area Median Income or (3) reside in a qualified U.S. Census tract. Beneficiaries of health care debt relief through this program will no longer owe their medical debt and will not have to pay taxes on this discharge of their debt. I am looking forward to the work that RIPMD will begin doing to provide medical debt relief to Pittsburghers.
I also want to announce that the City of Pittsburgh has opened the newest round of applications for Neighborhood Economic Development (NED) grants. These grants are funded by HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and are intended for nonprofit organizations undertaking economic development projects that will serve low-income Pittsburgh neighborhoods. I invite all eligible community and neighborhood organizations on the Northside to take advantage of this resource. NED grant application and program details are available online at engage.pittsburghpa.gov/2023-neighborhood-economic-development-grant. Applications will be accepted until Aug. 11, at 5 p.m. If you have more questions, please contact OMB’s Office of Community Development at email@example.com or call (412) 255-2227.
As many of you have seen, construction has begun on the North Promenade Phase 2 Project in Allegheny Commons Park. I’ll continue to provide updates on this project as I receive them from the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. Construction crews started resurfacing the pathways and will add secondary pathways to better connect North Avenue to the rest of the park. Next, crews will shift to adding new Dark Sky-compliant lighting to a currently unlit section of the park, building a new plaza and gathering space around the George Washington Monument, and creating the planted median on Arch Street for safe pedestrian passage through the park. For full details and timeline of this project, please visit https://pittsburghparks.org/north-promenade-project/.
Finally, I encourage everyone to join Representative Abney and me at an upcoming Vitalant Blood Drive on Aug. 25, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Union Place Gym, 801 Union Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15212. For more information or to schedule a donation, call (412) 209-7000 or visit vitalant.org and search by zip code or account code UD075.
If you have any questions or concerns about any of the items discussed in this column or any other City issues, please call us at (412) 255-2135, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. My staff and I look forward to hearing from you!