When the debt activism group Strike Debt began planning its Rolling Jubilee, the goal was relatively modest: They would raise $50,000, use it to buy distressed medical debt on secondary debt markets, and then, rather than hounding the debtors like the collection agencies that buy most of this sort of debt, they would wipe it out.
But that was before the Rolling Jubileecaught fire in the public imagination, garnering attention from the likes of Boing Boing, the New York Times, and Fortune Magazine. Even before the group had webcast its star-studded telethon, it had already surpassed its fundraising goal. To date, they’ve raised nearly half a million dollars — enough to buy and forgive nearly $10 million of debt.
Most of that money is going to go to purchasing a big hunk of distressed medical debt next month, but as a sort of proof-of-concept, Strike Debt has already spent $5,000 to buy $100,000 of distressed medical debt owed by 44 people in upstate New York.
Yesterday, the activists gathered to send out the notifications to the unsuspecting recipients of this first round of debt forgiveness. Since aggressive collection mailings often drive debtors to ignore envelopes they don’t recognize, the forgiveness letters are packaged in a small box wrapped in festive paper.
“We want to make sure they open it,” said Yates McKee of Strike Debt. “We also like the idea of it having a holiday feeling to it.”
“Seasons Greetings from Strike Debt!” begins the letter.
“We write with good news: the above referenced account has been purchased by the Rolling Jubilee Fund, a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization. The Rolling Jubilee Fund is a project of Strike Debt. The mission of this project is to buy and abolish personal debt. We believe that no one should have to go into debt for the basic things in our lives, like healthcare, housing, and education.
You no longer owe the balance of this debt. It is gone, a gift with no strings attached. You are no longer any obligation to settle this account with the original creditor, the bill collector, or anyone else.”