Financial Assistance for Military Members: What’s Available and How It Can Be Used

Financial Assistance for Military Members: What’s Available and How It Can Be Used

Whether in athletics or in more personal endeavors, it's said that the best way to increase endurance is to endure. In other words, you have to go through challenges to become stronger and battle-tested. Military training helps prepare service members to effectively cope and manage the inevitable adversities that come up in life. In a recent poll conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 75% active duty service member respondents pointed to their training in the military as what helped them endure and acclimate to the economic ramifications of COVID-19. Approximately 50% of veteran service members also said their training guided their preparedness in this regard.

But that hasn't been the case for all service members, nor their family members who didn't have such training available to them. Indeed, among military family respondents in the NFCC survey, 20% of military spouses said they weren't at all financially prepared for the economic fallout that resulted from the coronavirus. Additionally, among service members who actively considered borrowing money, the process wasn't easy. More than half (52%) said their experience made them feel like their options were limited. This may explain why payday loan use among active duty service members rose considerably in 2020 compared to the previous year, according to the NFCC.

The fact that service members in need of financial assistance or emergency financial aid didn't get it is truly regrettable. Omni Financial stands ready and willing to lend a hand with military loans and financial literacy resources. But military personnel have other options that are available, depending on their needs and those of their family. We'll go over some of those here.

What is Army Emergency Relief?
Founded in 1942 during World War II, Army Emergency Relief is a nonprofit organization that is managed by the Army and provides emergency financial assistance to active duty soldiers. An incredible number of soldiers over the years have been able to take advantage of AER, with $2 billion in no-interest loans provided to 4 million service members since the nonprofit's creation. Approximately $1 billion of that total has been dispensed since September 11, 2001. The nonprofit has also awarded a number of grants and educational scholarships in its nearly 80 years, such as the Career Skills Program.

Generally speaking, AER provides no-interest loans exclusively to active duty services members who are enlisted in the Army. However, if a service member has dependents, such as a spouse or child, they too are eligible, as are veterans who are 60 or over and retired. Those who retired before 60 for medical reasons may also qualify.

What can the proceeds of an AER loan be used for?
The funds from an AER loan can go toward just about anything, so long as the need is of an urgent nature. These include, but are not limited to, things like food, emergency travel, home repairs, funeral expenses, clothing essentials, rent, medical bills, dental bills and more. The website has a number of different expenses the funds can go toward. All loan requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

In addition to active duty soldiers, service veterans as well as military family dependents or spouses, members of the Army Reserve and National Guard are also eligible for an AER loan, provided they are on Title 10 orders for at least 30 days.

What other financial assistance programs are available?
The other service branches have their own financial assistance resources that function similarly. These include the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and the Air Force Aid Society. The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society also launched in 1942 and provides for a wide range of emergency needs that require money to resolve. Home repairs, an untimely death and costs associated with a permanent change of station are a few of them. And thanks to the GI Bill, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society also provides grants and interest-free loans for tuition toward a bachelor's or master's degree (up to $3,000 for two semesters). 

The Air Force Air Society generally offers the same kind of no-interest loans, grants and scholarships for service members who are having trouble making ends meet or who are pursuing a degree in higher education.

The Coast Guard also has a support system service members can leverage for financial assistance. Coast Guard Mutual Assistance provides education benefits, financial counseling and loans for emergencies, among other options.

This has been a very challenging time for so many people. Your training has undoubtedly helped you cope with the consequences of the pandemic, but in times of trial, it's important to know that you're not alone. The country stands with you, as do the armed forces. Omni Financial is with you too. Even if your financial needs don't quite fit the definition of an emergency, that's not an issue; you can use the funds however you choose. Plus, the application process is fast, and you'll receive the funds even faster, assuming you're approved.

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The information provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice. You should consult with a financial professional to determine what may be best for your individual needs.