Orange County Contemplates Utilizing COVID Funds To Alleviate Residents' Medical Debts

Apr 19, 2024 at 01:00 pm by Matt

Orange County is mulling over the possibility of becoming the inaugural county in Florida to utilize funds from the American Rescue Plan to alleviate medical debts. The county commission is considering allocating approximately $4.5 million in surplus funds from the American Rescue Plan, potentially positioning Orange as the first Florida county to embark on such an endeavor. Commissioners in Orange County are advancing a proposal to eliminate the medical debts of residents by utilizing $4.5 million from the remaining COVID-19 relief funds.

Alleviating The Burden Of Floridian Medical Debts

These funds, which originate from the county's share of the American Rescue Plan, hold the potential to alleviate the burdens of numerous residents grappling with medical debts. During a recent county commission meeting, individuals like Ashe Heart, a student facing significant medical debt, urged commissioners to take decisive action.

Heart expressed, "I am unable to secure loans for educational purposes or essential medical needs. I find myself unable to acquire loans to cover medical expenses prescribed by my therapist but not covered by my insurance company."

Orange County Does Not Have A Specific Date In Mind

Currently, Orange County has not set a specific date for the next discussion on medical debt relief, and the logistics and specifics of the plan are yet to be determined. Advocacy groups like Central Florida Jobs With Justice have been advocating for a higher allocation, pushing for nearly double the funding, around $8.5 million, which could potentially benefit approximately 300,000 residents.

The prospect of Orange County being the first in Florida to utilize COVID relief funds for medical debt clearance is gaining momentum. Tara Felten, another resident who voiced her opinion during a public comment session, emphasized the interconnectedness of medical debt and basic needs.

Will Orange County Pioneer This Initiative?

Felten stated, "We've been informed that medical debt relief is considered a lower priority compared to issues like housing and food. While we agree that residents must have their basic needs met, disregarding the significance of debt in determining a family's ability, or inability, to provide for themselves overlooks the harsh realities faced by impoverished and working-class communities."

In its effort to address the pressing issue of medical debts, Orange County stands on the cusp of potentially pioneering initiatives, poised to provide much-needed relief to its residents.

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