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NAPLES, Italy — Are car-repair expenses eating away at your cash for food? Medical expenses getting out of hand?

Would a quick and easy loan help?

On Wednesday, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society will launch a program to give active-duty sailors and Marines a quick, few-questions-asked, interest-free loan.

The program’s goals are not only to assist those in financial need but also to keep them from turning to predatory lenders, according to Margaret Copson, director of the military relief office at Naval Support Activity Naples.

Up to $300 will be available through a Quick Assist Loan for expenses for such things as housing, food, clothing, vehicle or utilities, and medical, dental or family emergencies, she said.

The aim is to get the money to servicemembers within 15 minutes from the time they fill out the one-page application to the time they walk out, check in hand, she said.

“We want to give them an alternative to going to the payday predatory lenders” for loans that often can get military members into further debt, Copson said.

In 2006, Congress began efforts to curb payday lending to military members on those short-term, cash loans to be repaid in weeks at high interest rates or with other terms that can exponentially increase debt.

This week, relief society centers worldwide will begin granting the loans, after results from a 2007 pilot program showed loan activity at NMCRS offices increased by 77 percent. The pilot program doled out loans of $500, with a year to pay it off.

The new program scales back the loan limit so more people can apply. According to the organization’s Web site, the maximum amount was lowered as “simply a matter of affordability.”

Applicants can pay off the loan in three to 10 months, with payments automatically deducted from their paychecks, Copson said. She said applicants must meet the following eligibility requirements:

All previous loans with NMCRS must be paid off.Applicants cannot have pending or had any disciplinary action in the last six months.Applicants cannot have filed for bankruptcy protection.Applicants cannot have received a grant or had a loan converted to a grant in the last 12 months.Members can apply for two Quick Assist Loans within a 12-month period, but the first must be paid off before a second is granted.To expedite the process, applicants can fill out an application online at www.nmcrs.org, and take the completed form to their local NMCRS, Copson said.

Because applications must be turned in to a representative at an office, the loans are not available for sailors or Marines on ships.


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