NATICK, Mass. - Emergencies can catch anyone off guard. Placing extra financial burdens on someone at an inopportune time can have a long-lasting negative effect on their household. The Army Emergency Relief organization exists specifically to help aid Soldiers in these times of crisis. The Army Community Service office, at Natick Soldier Systems Center, will have a kick-off and information session to raise awareness of the programs AER offers and how Soldiers and Civilians alike can support their cause, March 30, 2023.
The AER offers zero interest loans to Active duty Soldiers, Army Reserve and National Guard Soldier activated on Title 10 orders for more than 30 days, Army retirees, and surviving spouses as well as all eligible dependents.
“I recommend calling the ACS office to get more information on eligibility. ACS would be glad to answer any questions and provide information on completing an application,” said Yolanda Kennedy, the Army Community Service Director for Natick Soldier Systems Center.
According to the AER website, all assistance requests are unique and considered on an individual basis. The categories that merit assistance cover a multitude of instances including: emergency travel, natural disaster preparation and evacuation, food, vehicle costs, funeral expenses, PCS travel, home repair, medical equipment, and many others (for a full list visit https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/assistance/).
“Living in a high-cost area, we have all experienced the cost of inflation. When Soldiers and Families move to New England there is an adjustment and expenses like rent, PCS and food become challenging to pay,” said Kennedy.
There are many kinds and levels of support. The Quick Assist Program gives the chain of command the ability to approve immediate financial assistance up to $2,000. Alternately, the local AER officer, or if residing further than 50 miles from the nearest military installation, the qualifying individual can contact the American Red Cross, who is also authorized to provide financial assistance.
“When Soldiers are going through any type of hardships the first stop must be their first line leader. When Soldiers and their leaders have trust, then tough discussion become less difficult. Besides that initial discussion with their first line leader and chain of command, their next stop for financial assistance is AER,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Roldan, Command Sergeant Major of U.S. Army Garrison Natick Soldier Systems Center.
Having difficult discussions and facing fiscal challenges quickly and fairly is what the AER organization is for. Anyone can suffer from unexpected setbacks. Asking for help or guidance will get you started on recovery faster than waiting, which could bring long term ramifications.
“I have helped Soldiers in some of their most challenging moments. AER has helped local Soldiers with securing food, paying for rent and necessary car repairs,” said Kennedy.
The AER also offers financial education courses. Soldiers who already have an AER loan could reduce the amount they need to pay back by as much as $500 by attending one of these courses.
“Financial education and literacy are part of Soldier readiness. Soldiers are expected to be responsible stewards of their finances, make smart decisions, and not over extend themselves to cause fiscal issues in the short or long term,” Roldan said. “I strongly encourage leaders to have candid discussions about financial management skills with their Soldiers in order to build financial competencies and that create individual and Family wealth over time. Soldiers who are financially stable are simply more ready and leaders have a responsibility to help Soldiers grow financial management skills.”
The Army, your chain of command, and the Army Civilians around you can help if you’re going through a financial crisis. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, just ask.