Military members and families may be feeling the financial pinch from the novel coronavirus pandemic as businesses close, cancellations clear schedules and second incomes dwindle.
But officials with the military aid societies and nonprofits, which offer grants and financial support for military members and veterans in times of crises, said they are standing by to help.
As with any crisis, active-duty military members who need help can first contact the American Red Cross to be directed to the aid that best fits their need or service. The Red Cross can be reached at 877-272-7337
Army Emergency Relief
Officials with Army Emergency Relief (AER) said they've extended eligibility to any Title 10 Army Reserve or Title 10 or Title 32 Army National Guard soldier activated in support of COVID-19 relief.
That expansion gives access to the program's grants and loans to about 28,000 aditional troops, officials said. Those soldiers are eligible for relief during their activation and for 30 days after their activation ends, they said.
Help is available for any basic living or personal transportation expense, two of the most common needs for soldiers who have been activated, they said. Basic living expenses and transportation costs include rent; mortgage; utilities; food; car payments; insurance; and gas, among other needs.
This effort is in line with AER’s mission to provide financial help to active duty and retired soldiers, as well as their families. AER provides about $70 million in grants and zero-interest loans to more than 40,000 military families who are experiencing temporary financial hardship each year.
Officials have also rolled out an online application process that allows users to avoid visiting AER offices.
Outside of the COVID-crises, AER offers both interest-free loans and grants to active-duty soldiers and their families, as well as Army 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. The organization annually gives about $70 million in assistance.
Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society
Among the assistance the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) provides to active-duty users is an up-to-$500 quick assistance loan, plus traditional loans and grants to all qualifying users on an as-needed basis, officials there said.
NMCRS offices are following local base office closures rules, officials said. In those areas, sailors and Marines can call the program's 800 number for assistance or, after hours, contact the Red Cross. NMCRS' number is 800-654-8364.
Qualifying users include active-duty and retired members of the regular Navy and Marine Corps; reservists on extended active duty and certain retired reservists; dependents; some ex-spouses; and uniformed members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Air Force Aid Society
Officials with the Air Force Aid Society said they have staff at Airman and Family Readiness Centers nationwide ready to administer help as needed.
Like the other aid societies, the Air Force Aid Society gives out both grants and interest-free loans. Qualifying users include active-duty and retired Air Force members and their dependents, and the dependents of deceased Air Force personnel who died on active duty or in retired status.
Coast Guard Mutual Assistance
Officials at Coast Guard Mutual Assistance said they are providing loans up to $6,000 for loss of pay by a spouse, needs for child care due to school closure, and lodging and food costs while quarantined. They also have limited grants for those facing travel change fees. Applications can be filled out remotely on their website and then emailed. More information can be found on their website.
Eligible users including active-duty Coast Guard members; Coast Guard retirees; Coast Guard civilian employees; Coast Guard civilian and auxiliary employees; and U.S. Public Health Service officers and chaplains, among others.
While military retirees may qualify for assistance from the aid societies, many veterans do not. The Independence Fund announced that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is providing help to catastrophically disabled veterans, caregivers and families with covering costs like mortgage and rent; utilities; child care; transportation services; home WiFi services; household cleaning and upkeep; grocery and medical product delivery; and streaming services for work and learning.
Many of these families live day-to-day on very thin margins, and the pulling back of the support systems they've had in place hit them especially hard. Veterans can apply on the Independence Fund website.