(Photo by M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia)
Per the IRS Master File, there are over 280 Philadelphia-located foundations with assets over $1M, totaling almost $10.4B in assets. With 5% needed to be given away every year equating to about $524M in annual philanthropy.
This money has many missions and goes to many places and is mostly well-invested, but I’d like to suggest a few places a relatively small investment can create huge impact.
Retire medical debt ($150K)
RipMedicalDebt is a nonprofit that buys medical debt off the open market and simply forgives it — they send a letter to those in debt saying it is forgiven. They only focus on people earning less than two times the federal poverty level.
To date they have retired over $625M across the country. In Philadelphia they have identified $15M in medical debt that could be erased for $150K.
Pro bono bankruptcy support ($335K)
Upsolve is a tech-driven nonprofit that has to date helped individuals who can’t afford a lawyer erase over $92M in debt with their DIY bankruptcy guides. They have real lawyers review the application for you. In PA there is a $335 court filing fee that can be waived in some instances.
On average Upsolve users have been able to retire $46,697 in debt each. So lets say philanthropists put up $335,000 to cover 1,000 filing fees, that would help retire $46,697,000 in debt for low-income individuals
Bail out everybody ($3.2M)
Philanthropy could end cash bail a lot faster than the government by simply cutting a check to the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund.
Right now there are about 1,500 in pre-trial detention because they can’t afford to post bail. Per a report from Philly Bail Watch the average bail is $21,760 so the average bail bond (10%) would be $2,176 —meaning cash bail would could end right now for about $3.2M. That cash also gets recycled every time a defendant completes all their court appearances so that initial investment can be used over and over again.
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The Philadelphia Controller’s office has also reported that ending cash bail would save the City over $20M a year, itself a huge ROI on the $3.2M investment. You are also keeping families together, helping people keep their jobs while waiting trial, and giving the accused a chance to fight for lower charges.
The City could put that $20M towards other programs to fight poverty.
These three items together would cost $3,685,000 but generate at least $81,697,000 in social economic impact directly affecting those low-income individuals and their families.
Retiring and clearing as much debt as possible is a low-cost but highly efficient way to preserve and pass on as much generational wealth as possible. These aren’t big splashy items that get your name on a wall, but real simple solutions that are within the grasp of the region’s philanthropic sector.-30-
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