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March 09, 2012

News

Army Emergency Relief campaign under way through May 15

The Fort McCoy Army Emergency Relief (AER) Campaign is under way and will continue to May 15. Dianne Sommers, Fort McCoy’s AER officer, announced that one of this year’s campaign goals is to educate the Soldiers on the installation about the changes to the program.
PHOTO: The Fort McCoy Army Emergency Relief officer, explains the program to organizational military representatives. Photo by Rob Schuette
Dianne Sommers, the Fort McCoy Army Emergency Relief officer, explains the program to organizational military representatives. (Photo by Rob Schuette)

“New emergency assistance categories added this year make the program even more responsive to Soldiers’ needs,” Sommers said.

The new categories, which became effective Jan. 2, include assistance of up to $4,000 for dental expenses of dependents of active-duty and retired Soldiers; assistance of up to $4,000 for the purchase of essential furniture when destroyed by natural disaster or upon the establishment of an initial household; up to $4,000 toward the purchase of a replacement vehicle when the cost to repair an existing vehicle exceeds the blue book value; and assistance of up to $4,000 for a rental vehicle while a Soldier is awaiting major repairs of a primary vehicle or while on emergency leave.

“I think extending (emergency financial assistance) to purchase a replacement vehicle is one of the best changes ever implemented by the AER Board of Managers,” Sommers said. “And implementing the category of purchasing essential furniture is a great way to discourage Soldiers from utilizing predatory lenders, which charge extremely high rates of interest.”

Additional AER policy changes include increasing the Commander Referral Program from $1,000 to $1,500, and extending the repayment of a Commander Referral Loan from 12 months to 15 months.

“The Commander Referral Program has been recognized by the Government Accountability Office as being an effective means to combat payday lenders,” Sommers said.

The AER program, which is celebrating its 70th year of operation, is a private, non-profit organization incorporated in 1942 by the Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff.

Since AER’s inception, the program has provided more than $1 billion in assistance to more than 3.2 million Soldiers and Families.

Eligibility for assistance includes active-duty Soldiers and Family Members; Army National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers on continuous active duty for more than 30 days under Title 10, USC, and their Family members; Army National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers who retired at age 60, and their Family members; Soldiers retired from active duty for longevity or physical disability, and their Family members; and surviving spouses and orphans of Soldiers who died while on active duty, or after they retired.

Financial assistance is generally provided in the form of a no-interest loan, but if the repayment of a loan will cause additional financial hardship, assistance can be provided in the form of a grant, or a combination of partial loan and partial grant.

“There is no blanket policy in place for providing a loan versus providing a grant,” Sommers said. “Instead, each case is considered on an individual basis.”

The AER program also offers educational assistance in the form of a scholarship to spouses and children of Soldiers.

Changes to the program for academic year 2012-2013 include all spouses being allowed to attend school part-time or full-time. Part-time students must take a minimum of six credit hours per semester. Full-time students must take a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester.

For more information about AER, contact Army Community Service at 608-388-3505, or stop by the office at 2111 South 8th Avenue.

Scholarship applications and information can be downloaded from the AER website at www.aerhq.org.

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