Army Emergency Relief helps those in a financial spot

By DAVID BURGE | El Paso Times, Texas | Published: January 11, 2013

FORT BLISS, Texas — Soldiers, retired military and their families have a nonprofit agency they can turn to if they got overextended this holiday season or are suffering from other financial hardships.

Army Emergency Relief is a national nonprofit group with locations throughout the Army, including one at East Fort Bliss.

The organization can issue interest-free loans and some grants to help active-duty military, military retirees and their families weather temporary financial setbacks, said Janice Gamel, an Army Emergency Relief officer at Fort Bliss.

It can also help the surviving spouses of fallen and retired servicemembers.

"We won't pay their Christmas bills for them, but we will help with basic living expenses," Gamel said.

The group can issue up to $2,500 to help soldiers and others eligible for the program pay their rent or mortgage, buy food and pay for utilities, emergency transportation, vehicle repairs, funeral expenses and medical and dental bills.

If more than $2,500 is needed, the garrison commander can authorize an additional $1,000.

If more than $3,500 is needed, the request is reviewed by Army Emergency Relief's national headquarters in Alexandria, Va.

In 2012, the Fort Bliss Section of Army Emergency Relief issued $3.9 million in assistance, helping nearly 3,700 soldiers, military retirees and families. About 6 percent of that assistance was through grants and the rest was in interest-free loans that had to be repaid, Gamel said.

There is no limit on the number of times someone can ask for help, but if people repeatedly come back with the same problem, they will get referred to Financial Readiness, an Army Community Service program, for budgeting help or financial classes, Gamel said.

Each request is looked at on a case-by-case basis and is judged on its merits, Gamel said.

Army Emergency Relief doesn't receive any taxpayer dollars for its financial assistance programs, Gamel said. Instead, it seeks donations from soldiers and others who are eligible for the program, she added. Civilians and businesses can also donate, but the program doesn't solicit funds from those sources.

At Fort Bliss, Army Emergency Relief will start its annual fundraising drive at 11 a.m. Feb. 6 at the Centennial Club.

Retired Lt. Gen. Robert F. Foley, national director of Army Emergency Relief and a Medal of Honor recipient, will be the guest speaker. The goal is to raise $250,000 at Fort Bliss over a two-month period. The money will go into a single bank account that will be used by the program Army-wide.

Army Emergency Relief also has a college scholarship program for spouses and children of active-duty and retired military, offered through its national office.


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