No military family wants to have financial problems, and when they hit it can be hard to know where to turn and what to do. Fast cash payday lenders may seem like a good idea when you're in a pinch, but they can also come with many downsides, including high interest rates or practices federal watchdogs have ruled predatory.
That's why military aid organizations are so important. For Army families, Army Emergency Relief fills that vital role, providing both grants and zero interest loans when soldiers or their families are faced with financial or family emergencies.
With about 270 AER officers at 73 Army installations worldwide, it's never been easier to apply for assistance. In 2017 they provided help to almost 44,000 soldiers and families, and almost $70 million in assistance.
How can AER help you? Here's some more information.
Who qualifies for Army Emergency Relief?
Almost all active duty soldiers and their dependents qualify for AER help, as well as military retirees, widows and orphans of soldiers who died on active duty or after retirement, medical retirees and their families and members of the Guard and reserve who have been activated for more than 30 days.
Related: Want to know your pay? Check out Military.com's Pay App.
While most soldiers can take their problems directly to AER without going through their chain of command, those who have been on active duty less than a year, who have made two or more previous AER requests in the last 12 months and those who exhibit of "high risk" financial habits must can't do so. Instead, they can only access AER help through their unit.
What does Army Emergency Relief do?
AER can provide qualifying soldiers and their families with zero interest loans or grants.
AER also has a spouse and dependent needs-based scholarship program. Although the scholarship program for military children has an annual application deadline each spring, the spouse scholarship is awarded on a rolling basis.
What will Army Emergency Relief help with?
If it's a financial emergency, AER likely can help. Those financial needs could include rent and mortgage; vehicle repairs; emergency travel; utilities and utility deposits; funeral expenses; medical expenses; food; paycheck problems; PCS expenses; appliance or home heating or cool repair or replacement; loss of funds; furniture replacement; car seats; and vehicle rentals.
What doesn't AER help with? Anything that could be seen as nonessential, including vacations. They also don't help pay fines or legal expenses, cover bad checks or pay for home purchases or improvements.
How to get Army Emergency Relief help
To receive AER help you must fill out the program's forms, demonstrate the help you need with documentation and present your IDs or, if applying without your service member, present your special power of attorney. You can find a list of needed documentation and IDs on the AER website.
AER's website lets you fill out all of the forms online so that when you arrive at the AER office you're ready to apply.
What if I don't live near an Army Emergency Relief office?
If you're stationed on the base of a different military service, that service's aid society can help you access AER help. Don't live near a base at all? AER works with the American Red Cross to help those who don't live near an AER location. You can call them at 1-877-272-7337, and then selecting option 1 for financial assistance.
How to repay your Army Emergency Relief loan
AER doesn't charge late fees for their zero interest loans, but they do require you to repay them. Your payment amounts will be determined by your AER officer. Active duty soldiers and families can pay by paycheck allotment, which AER can set up for you. You can also pay online or through check or money order. You can view your outstanding loan on AER's website.