By Larry Whitley, Fort Meade Public Affairs Office
Helping the health of the Force
Army Emergency Relief is not just another funding and loan organization. It’s specifically focused on the men and women connected to the defense of the United States – and AER continues to evolve to ensure the needs of its clients can be met quickly and efficiently AER website:
Founded in 1942 by Secretary of War Henry Stimson and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall, AER was charted and charged with relieving undue financial stress on the force. AER serves the enduring priorities of the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, according to information on its website.
Since 1942, AER has provided $2 billion to nearly 4 million Soldiers, including $1 billion since 9/11. Through zero-interest loans, grants, and educational scholarships, AER ensures no Soldier faces financial hardship on their own.
At Fort Meade, the AER program is administered by the Army Community Service organization of the Directorate of Family, Morale and Welfare and Recreation. Faith Barnes of ACS explains that during this pandemic year (2020), AER-Fort Meade has issued “$98,833.51 in assistance during 2020, including loans and grants” to eligible members who applied for assistance.
Matt Howland, Chief of Communications at AER headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, states that, "Ninety-nine percent of valid requests are approved and seeking assistance from AER doesn't affect rank or clearance.
“AER can help, just ask”, he added.
As part of ensuring AER remains a positive and relevant resource for eligible community members during this COVID-19 pandemic, AER leadership has put in place specific programs to help with issues that have become real, everyday problems for Soldiers and their families.
One of the more recent programs is the COVID-19 Childcare Assistance Program which AER announced on Nov. 6, 2020, as a new assistance program to help Army families address the costs associated with childcare assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The United States Army provides high-quality childcare at most Army installations. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the Army’s childcare facilities are operating under reduced capacity and some have even temporarily closed, forcing Army families to look outside the gate for childcare,” said Howland. “Private childcare providers are experiencing the same challenge, with most facilities reducing their capacity or closing until the pandemic ends.
“Reduced capacity and closure of childcare facilities present a daunting financial challenge for some Army families. To help those families address the financial challenge, AER has established a new childcare assistance program aimed at providing grants and zero-interest loans to help Army families afford expensive private childcare options.”
The childcare assistance helps Soldiers focus on his or her mission and supports spouses’ professional careers, according to Howland. Active-duty Soldiers and their eligible family members, such as dependent spouses, and members of the Reserve Component on Title 10 orders for more than 30 consecutive days (and their eligible family members) are eligible.
Several other newly instituted programs or regular programs that have been adjusted to more effectively meet the needs of the force during this challenging period are currently available as well.
“Assistance requests are processed by your nearest AER officer,” stated Howland.
At Fort Meade, the AER office is located at 830 Chisholm Ave, Suite 5000, Fort George G Meade, MD 20755-7061, Tel: 301-677-5590 (6906).
(Editor’s note: More information can be found at https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/news/covid19/