Army Emergency Relief campaign underway
March 20, 2013
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. -- The Annual Army Emergency Relief campaign is officially underway for the Presidio of Monterey and the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. This year's theme is "Supporting Soldiers and their Families -- Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow."
AER at the Presidio is part of Army Community Service. Cliff Thornburg has been the Presidio's AER officer for nine years.
"Our funding comes entirely from Soldiers," Thornburg said. And, although the AER mission is to help Soldiers, "here at the Presidio we help members of all the … military services." Thornburg said he sees as many airmen, Marines and sailors as Soldiers.
He said that AER is authorized to do this "through agreements we've entered into with the Air Force Aid Society, the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society and the Coast Guard Mutual Aid Society."
"The bulk of financial assistance is traditionally for rent, mortgages, housing, personally-owned-vehicle repair, or travel under emergency-leave conditions," said Thornburg.
The AER is not about giving money away, but rather meeting the emergency needs of service members and their families, explained Thornburg. It accomplishes this mission by providing interest-free loans and grants as appropriate.
Assistance is provided as loans when a service member has the ability to repay, or it is provided as grants when repayment would cause a future hardship, he said.
According to the AER website, unlike most charitable non-profit organizations, AER clientele -- Soldiers -- have an income and the ability to repay their no-interest loans, which is in turn made available to other Soldiers.
And they don't want a handout, the website says, they are simply in need of funds for emergencies.
Based on reciprocal agreements, Soldiers and families not near an AER office can also seek assistance from the Air Force Aid Society, Navy Marine Corps Relief Society and Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, or seek assistance from the local chapter of the American Red Cross.
Last year, several types of problems that were in the past only supported by AER through an "exception to policy," were approved for regular assistance, according to Andrew H. Cohen, deputy director for finance and treasurer of Army Emergency Relief.
The 2013 approved categories of assistance include: non-receipt of pay, lost wallet, medical/dental, funeral (not service member), emergency essential travel, rent, food, utilities, vehicle repairs/gas/insurance and other commanders referral.
Additionally, there are some newer approved assistance items:
•Repair of heating and air-conditioning systems
•Travel funds for permanent change of station when advances are not forthcoming
•Repair or purchase of stoves or refrigerators
•Purchase of child car seats
•Purchase of cranial helmets when prescribed by medical authority and not authorized by TRICARE.
Beginning in January 2013, AER added four new categories of assistance to include family member dental care, basic furniture needs, rental vehicles and replacement vehicles. These additions were made to meet the changing needs of today's Soldiers and families.
In 2012 Army Emergency Relief provided $76.8 million in assistance to more than 59,000 Soldiers and their families. Under the streamlined Command Referral Program, company commanders and first sergeants have the authority to approve loans for their Soldiers up to $1,500 interest-free.
The goal of the campaign, Cohen said, is to obtain 100-percent contact of all Soldiers to ensure they are aware of the benefits AER can provide.
While the campaign ends May 15, service member may donate at any time. More details on assistance programs are available from unit AER officers or on the web at www.aerhq.org.
Soldiers requiring assistance should contact their unit chain of command or go to their local installation AER office at 831-242 -5501.
For the campaign, the 229th Military Intelligence Battalion company representatives may be contacted individually. Company A, 831-242-6302; Company B, 831-242-7944; Company C, 831-242-7382; Company D, 831-242-5301; Company E, 831-242-5195; Company F, 831-242-6666.