JOINT BASE LEWIS-McChord, Wash. - In the 78-year history of the Army Emergency Relief program, one goal has remained the same: providing emergency financial assistance to Soldiers, retired Soldiers and their families during times of distress.AER is a private, nonprofit organization that was created to provide funds to help Soldiers with immediate financial needs with rent, utilities, emergency travel, and more. AER also provides emergency funds to Soldiers' orphans and surviving spouses, and offers undergraduate scholarships to spouses and children of both active and retired Soldiers.“Many think that this program is only available to active duty service members,” said Marcus Doo, Joint Base Lewis-McChord emergency relief officer. “We offer support to active duty, retired, medically retired, survivor families and more.“Most of the assistance we offer is in the form of grants and other funds that do not have to be repaid,” Doo continued. “AER also offers loans with a 0 percent interest rate.”In 2019, AER provided $70 million in the form of interest-free loans and grants to 40 thousand families across the U.S. Army. Of the $70 million, $8 million in grants were offered to qualified individuals to assist with educational scholarship programs.However, AER cannot provide financial assistance for every financial emergency that a Soldier or their family may face. These limitations include debt consolidation, legal fees, home improvement projects, and the financing of ordinary leave or vacation.As different financial emergencies arise throughout the Army, the vision of AER is “To Help the Army Take Care of Its Own” by embracing innovation, technology and adaptability to provide the best support possible to those who have served, as well as their family members.As part of that commitment to provide the best support, AER has made changes to some of their policies to support Soldiers and their families currently impacted by COVID-19.One change in particular is the Home School and Remote Education Assistance Program, which assists Army families with the costs of home school and virtual or distance learning education supplies and equipment, providing up to $1,500 in the form of loans, grants or a combination of both.“It has been a tough year with all of the challenges we are facing with COVID-19," said Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, U.S. Army (ret.), Army Emergency Relief Director, “We want service members to know that we are here for you and available to help with any financial issues you or your family might have.”At this time, all active duty Soldiers, members of the Army National Guard, and the U.S. Army Reserve on continuous active duty under Title 10 orders for more than 30 consecutive days, and their dependents, are eligible for AER assistance. Additionally, ARNG and USAR Soldiers who retired at age 60 and their dependents, and surviving spouses and orphans of Soldiers who die while on active duty or after they retired also qualify for funding from AER.Although there is a wide range of eligible candidates who can apply for emergency relief through AER, there are certain requirements that Soldiers must meet to receive funding.While still in Initial Entry Training, Soldiers between the grades of E-1 through E-4 must submit AER requests through their unit chain of command. Upon completing IET and attaining 12- months' time in service, they become eligible for direct AER access.For more information on the AER assistance programs on JBLM, call 253-967-9852 or visit https://jblm.armymwr.com/programs/aer.