For those facing hard economic times and financial challenges, Army Emergency Relief is here to meet the needs of active-duty Soldiers and their Fami­lies.

A private, non-profit organization incorpo­rated in 1942 by the secretary of war and the Army chief of staff, the program is housed on Fort Bragg under the Financial Readiness Program, Army Com­munity Service.

AER provides funds to those who may be facing emergency situ­ations. The funds are dispersed through interest-free loans; a grant if repayment of loan would cause undue hardship; and partial loan and partial grant, said Lynn Olavarria, FRP manager.

Besides active-duty Soldiers, Family mem­bers, and Department of the Army civilians, AER is also available to:

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Army National Guardsmen and Army Reservists on continu­ous, active duty more than 30 days and their Families

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Soldiers retired from active-duty for longevity or physi­cal disability and their

Family members

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Army National Guard and Army Re­serve Soldiers who re­tired at age 60, and their Families

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Surviving spouses and orphans of Soldiers who died on active duty or after retirement “The checkbook is un­limited,” explained Ola­varria, with recent loans ranging from $150 for food and gas to $10,000 for funeral expenses.

Other financial emer­gencies that may qualify for these loans include vehicle repairs, medical or dental expenses, rent or utilities and scholarship needs for children, spous­es and surviving spouses of Soldiers.

“It’s a great loan, great availability. It keeps you from outside the gate,” Olavarria said.

The program allows a company commander or first sergeant to approve an AER loan for up to $1,500, Olavarria added. The program was piloted at Fort Bragg in 2004 to try to keep Soldiers away from predatory lenders.

In 2012, Fort Bragg dis­pensed more than $4.7 million in loans. Of that amount, $2.5 million were through the Com­mand Referral Program.

With sufficient lead time, AER personnel are also available to provide unit briefings about the AER mission, said Olav­arr ia.

Though AER com­pleted its fundraising goal in June, taking in $479, 543 of its $500,000 goal,

unsolicited donations are accepted any time by mail or online. The program is funded through repay­ment of AER interest­free loans, investment income, unsolicited con­tributions and voluntary contr ibutions.

Eighty-nine percent of every dollar contributed goes to help Soldiers and the remaining 11 cents goes to AER administra­tive and fundraising ex­penses.

Fort Bragg remains pro­active in meeting the needs of its Soldiers and enabling them to maintain readi­ness. Last month, the in­stallation coordinated with AER National Headquar­ters personnel as part of a worldwide assessment to see how AER could change with the times, Olavarria said.

Later this year, AER will implement the Netforum program, allowing appli­cants to begin their appli­cation online, but will still maintain due diligence to verify a financial need.

Since its inception, AER has helped more than 3.2 million Soldiers and Fam­ily members with more than $1 billion.

Army Emergency Re­lief is located on the third floor of the Soldier Sup­port Center. Hours of op­eration are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with no applications processed after 4:30 p.m.

For more information, call 396-2507 or 877-272-7337 after duty hours, visit www.fortbraggmwr. com/acs/ar my-emergen­cy- relief/ or like them on Facebook at https://www. facebook. com/ pages/ Fort- Bragg- Financial-Readiness- Program/ 137213639654344.