Fort McCoy News June 27, 2014

AER campaign donations exceed $51,000

BY GENEVE N. MANKEL
Public Affairs Staff

The Fort McCoy Army Emergency Relief (AER) program received $51,305.95 in donations during the annual AER campaign. Soldiers contributed $6,053.80, and retirees gave $45,252.14.

The campaign, which ran from March 1 to May 15, focused on raising funds and educating Soldiers on the AER program, said Dianne Sommers, Fort McCoy AER Campaign coordinator for Army Community Service (ACS).

AER logo

AER provides interest-free loans and/or grants to active-duty and retired Soldiers, reserve-component Soldiers on federal activation orders for more than 30 days, and to spouses of Soldiers in each category. Also eligible are survivor spouses and dependents of Soldiers who died while on active duty or after retirement. AER also maintains an education scholarship program for children and spouses of active-duty and retired Soldiers.

To date in fiscal year 2014, AER has provided $56,503.50 in assistance to 29 members of the Fort McCoy community, said Kevin Herman ACS Financial Readiness Program manager and AER officer. Funds are distributed for emergency-related expenses, such as rent/mortgage, vehicle repair, emergency travel, funeral expenses, medical expenses and more.

"This is a program funded by Soldiers for Soldiers," Herman said. "Federal funds are not used for the program."

Herman also said that 89 percent of the funds contributed go directly to those who need it, with only 11 percent used for administrative costs.

The funds received by the Fort McCoy AER program, along with all other AER program donations, are sent to AER Headquarters to be part of one major fund, Sommers said. Funds are drawn from the major fund allowing the installation to request more than the amount specifically donated at Fort McCoy.

AER gives Soldiers an option, other than credit cards or high-interest loans from predatory lenders, for funds assistance, Sommers said.

The campaign also aimed to educate Soldiers of changes to the program.

"AER is striving to make the process easier," Sommers said. "Soldiers E-5 and higher no longer need approval from their commanders to request AER assistance."

Although Soldiers who are E-4 and below still require approval from their commander or first sergeant, Sommers said the AER program can assist in getting those approvals. The AER program also can assist those from other branches of the military through reciprocity agreements with other military aid organizations.

"Those who may not qualify for AER have other resources to seek assistance," Herman said. "There is a network of organizations that can help."

Herman and Sommers said any service member needing financial help should contact AER for guidance.

Donation solicitation from civilians is not authorized, Sommers said. However, civilian personnel still can donate to the program.
Donations in the form of check, cash and money orders are accepted year-round at the ACS Center, building 2111, Sommers said. Credit card donations can be made through the AER website at www.aerhq.org.

Herman said the AER scholarship program recently announced it provided 3,639 scholarship awards totaling $8.8 million to be disbursed for the 2014-2015 academic year. More information about the scholarship program is available at the AER website.

Additional information and AER application forms can be found at http://mccoymwr.com/home/army-community-service/army-emergency-relief.html, or at the ACS Center. AER questions can be answered by calling 608-388-3505.