Angie Thorne | Fort Polk Public Affairs Office | March 3, 2023
The Army Emergency Relief Leadership Breakfast, held March 3 at the Warrior Center, kicked off the campaign for 2023.
Brig. Gen. David W. Gardner, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commanding general, began the event with a few opening remarks about the importance of AER to Soldiers. Military Families don’t want financial problems, but when they happen, it can be hard to know where to turn until the next payday.
“What AER does is fill a gap when our Soldiers and Families are in a tough place,” Gardner said.
AER provided $65 million in loans, grants and scholarships to help almost 31,000 Soldiers and Families in 2022.
“This incredible amount of assistance is made possible due to donors that have been supporting this program since its inception in 1942,” Gardner said. “The program relies on our camaraderie and sense of Family in connection with our community and Soldiers. The more Soldiers support AER, the more Soldiers can be helped.”
Gardner encouraged his leaders to talk to their Soldiers about the program.
“What we focus on is 100 percent notification and awareness of what AER does. So, what I would ask leaders to do is to look at what AER provides and tell Soldiers what they need to know so they can make a more informed decision,” Gardner said.
When the unexpected happens, Soldiers don’t have to face those challenges alone. Army Emergency Relief is in their corner.
AER is the Army’s official nonprofit. For 80 years they have helped the Army take care of its number one priority — its people. It’s mission is to provide grants, interest-free loans and scholarships to promote readiness and relieve the financial distress of Soldiers and their Families.
There are more than 30 AER assistance categories. They include permanent change of station travel, spouse relicensing and recertification fees, tutoring assistance, rent, mortgage, food and utility assistance, emergency travel, disaster assistance and more.
Other AER programs include the Quick Assist Program (an interest-free $2,000 loan), scholarships (financial aid for spouses and children of active duty and retired Soldiers), Career Skills Program assistance (a grant program for retiring and separating Soldiers to participate in apprenticeships and on the job training) and more.
There are three different levels of approval authority for aid:
- Level I approval authority — Army Emergency Relief officer — up to $4,000
- Level II approval authority — garrison commander — $4,001 up to $5,000
- Level III approval authority — AER headquarters — $5,001 and above
In addition, there is a special program for company commanders and first sergeants called the Quick Assist Program with an approval limit up to $2,000 (loan only).
To find out about these and other AER programs visit https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org.
Pfc. Byron Walkins was a guest speaker at the breakfast. When he experienced financial difficulties during a permanent change of station move, he went to AER.
“I want to thank AER for helping me in my time of need. I went to Army Community Service and Ms. Katie at AER asked me what I needed and helped guide me through the paperwork. They gave me a loan to help me with my apartment,” Walkins said. “I hope this program continues to be supported so it can keep helping Soldiers.”
Tawan Parsons, ACS Financial Readiness Program manager, asked the leaders in attendance to communicate to their Soldiers what AER can do.
“When life happens, that’s what AER is for. Make sure that those that are following you are informed, so that they can make the best decisions for themselves, their Families and, ultimately, for the Army because when your Soldiers are taken care of, they can focus on the mission at hand,” Parsons said.
Katie R. Davis, ACS AER specialist, said the Fort Polk AER program provides its military community with a compassionate and dedicated organization that assists Soldiers with needs to relieve financial distress without causing a hardship.
“At Fort Polk, the top five categories of assistance that we provide are privately owned vehicle expenses, emergency travel, utilities, housing and food,” Davis said.
The Fort Polk AER office and entire ACS staff actively work to get information about AER programs to the community every week.
“AER is here to assist this military community in times of financial distress. We will find a way to say yes to verifiable and valid financial needs,” Davis said.
For more information about AER call (337) 531-1957.
For more on the AER Annual Campaign, go to https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/campaign.