JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
Army Emergency Relief was created to alleviate financial distress as an incident to service. AER helps Soldiers and families get back on their feet through interest-free loans, grants and scholarships when monetary needs arise and also provides budgeting and financial counseling.
This year’s AER campaign runs from March 1 to May 15, but donations are accepted year-round.
Founded in 1942, AER has been the conduit through which Soldiers provide financial support to their brothers and sisters in arms. Since 1942, the organization has provided 4 million Soldiers with $2 billion in financial aid, half of which poured in after the 9/11 attacks.
Last year alone, it provided more than $65 million in assistance to 31,000 Soldiers and families. AER’s Career Skills Programs provided $2.1 million in grants to retiring and separating Soldiers, helping ease their transition into the civilian workforce.
Donations are the best way to get involved. Anyone can go to the AER website at http://www.aerhq.org and donate. Soldiers can contact their unit’s AER representative for more information. AER is the official nonprofit of the U.S. Army and is a registered 501(c)(3) charity, which means donations may be tax deductible.
Funded totally by donations, AER provides eligible recipients with money for emergencies, just as the name suggests.
AER helps with zero-interest loans for more than 30 categories of assistance and emergency situations and AER leaders say the most frequent needs are money for car repairs, housing deposits and monthly rent, homeowner's or renter's insurance, minor home repairs and many more. Another common situation involves the death of a family member, which may necessitate extra funds for travel, rental car, hotel and food.
Some common reasons include one-time rent payments, car repairs, utilities, some medical and dental payments, PCS travel and COVID assistance, as well as other unforeseen emergencies.
According to retired Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, executive director, Army Emergency Relief, the campaign, which runs through May 15, has one main goal — combat readiness for Soldiers and units.
“If a Soldier is distracted by something in their life — such as financial problems — they’re not focused on their training. They’re not focused on their unit mission the way they should be. And if we send them into combat, they’re potentially a danger to themselves, and their brothers and sisters on their left and right,” Mason recently said at an AER kickoff event.
“We need Soldiers to go into combat laser-focused on their mission, complete their mission and come home safely to their loved ones — that’s mission success,” he said. “AER can help minimize, and hopefully, eliminate the financial distraction,” Mason said. “AER’s mission is to take care of Soldiers and help them complete the mission.
“Ninety-one cents of every dollar a Soldier donates goes right back to Soldiers. That’s one of the highest of any nonprofit in the world as it should be,” he added. “Whatever you’re dealing with as a Soldier, come to AER. We’re all about trying to get to yes. There’s no stigma with this. It’s not going to affect your promotion. It’s not going to affect your security clearance. It’s zero percent interest. That’s a big deal compared to lending agencies outside the gate. Some of them are unscrupulous and predatory, and they’ll charge lots of interest. We want Soldiers to come to us. Most loans are for 12 to 15 months, and we’ll work with the Soldier. We’ll renegotiate the loan along the way so they can pay it as fast or slowly as they need. We can help and it’s very easy.”
The AER campaign serves two purposes. One is to raise money through donations from Soldiers and civilians. The money is given back in zero-interest loans or grants to Soldiers when they need it. The second, or primary goal, of the campaign, is to inform 100 percent of the Soldiers at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston of the benefit AER provides to them and ensure they know how to receive help through the organization.
“Our goal is to get 25 percent of active-duty Soldiers contributing to AER,” Mason said. “Right now at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, it’s about 5 percent donating to AER and that’s a problem because when you donate to AER you’re making a commitment to the team, to the values and the ethos and the profession of arms. Soldiers fight for each other. They fight for their brothers and sisters on their left and right. When you make that commitment and the donation, you are part of the team. You may not need that money right now, but then sometime in the future you might.”
Mason added that at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, $794,807.81 was paid in loans; $84,760.74 in grants; Soldiers, retirees, and civilians at JBSA donated $79K+; and AER donated $500,000 — half a million — went to scholarships for spouses and children.
Educational scholarships for spouses and dependent children based on need also are available through AER. Eligible AER recipients include retired service members, active duty members, widows of retired service members, and members of the Reserve or National Guard on active orders.
For more information on the AER campaign or assistance programs, contact the Installation Army Emergency Relief office at 210-221-1612. Visit https://www.facebook.com/AERHQ/ and https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/ for more information.