FORT BENNING, Ga. – Army Emergency Relief is a nonprofit organization founded to provide financial assistance to Solders, retirees and their families through grants, interest-free loans and scholarships.
Its tagline – Soldiers helping Soldiers.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Army postponed the spring fundraising campaign until now. This year’s focus is “A Hand Up for Soldiers.”
In a memo Gen. James McConville, Army chief of staff, wrote, “During its long history as the Army’s own charitable organization, AER has provided nearly $2 billion in assistance, including $1 billion since 9/11. Taking care of our Army Team is key to winning the fight, and AER is a crucial component in improving our efforts to take care of our people. With AER by our side, we promote an Army community of ‘Soldiers Helping Soldiers.’ I encourage you to take part in what makes our Army the best in the world.”
Lionel Grant, Army Emergency Relief officer for the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, said regardless of the pandemic, the need for assistance never stops. However, the office did not see a surge in requests because of the pandemic.
AER staff continued to provide assistance through telework and face-to-face for sensitive and extreme emergencies, Grant said. Some elderly clients had difficulty working through the electronic process. Telework is a new process for AER and AER HQ is working to streamline the process, to make it easier for all Soldiers, retired Soldiers and their family members.
Gina Nichols, Army Emergency Relief specialist, said there were some of the challenges for clients who didn’t have access to computers, printers and scanners because of the shelter in place.
“Some clients had to use their smart phones to complete the process. We usually refer Soldiers to our ACS computer lab to complete their AER packet.
“We’ve never been in this situation,” Nichols said after sharing a story on how a Soldier taught her about phone apps that can replace scanners and other office equipment. “It’s a learning situation for everyone.”
Unexpected financial hardship can come in many forms – car repairs, minor home repair, initial rent and deposit, and supplies for homeschooling when the schools closed due to Coronavirus, Grant said.
“Bottom line, whatever it takes to meet a Soldier’s emergency needs,” Grant said, “we’re going to do what we can to make it happen.”