Bewildered and struggling to pay down debt, Spc. Lakeshia Dennis fell behind in her rent last fall and wasn’t sure where to turn for assistance in regaining her financial footing.
Dennis, assigned to the 554th Military Police Company, found help through Army Emergency Relief. AER provides emergency financial assistance to active duty and retired Soldiers, their family members, surviving spouses and orphans.
“I was very frustrated and stressed, knowing no way out, and then I was told that AER was an option,” said Dennis, who received a $2,200 loan. “AER was very helpful to me in paying my rent at the time…I am very thankful for AER coming to my rescue in my time of need.”
Dennis was one of nearly 60 local Soldiers and families who received more than $85,000 in emergency assistance in 2010, according to Faith Barnes, the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart AER officer. Last year, about 62,000 Soldiers received more than $69.7 million in emergency assistance Army-wide, Barnes said.
AER emergency financial assistance is provided as an interest-free loan, a grant or a combination of the two. “There’s no limit on how much can be received. We take it case by case and situation by situation,” she said. “We do a budget analysis to determine if a loan, a grant or a combination of the two is best — we don’t want to put anyone in a hardship situation.”
Barnes said the majority of assistance requested is for travel for emergency leave, and car repairs. She said she has noticed increases in requests for assistance during the permanent change of station season, roughly May to August or early September, for what she described as “extraordinary PCS expenses.”
For example, a specialist, while locating here last year, needed a loan to help with food and lodging because he spent most of his money in car repairs when his vehicle broke down on the highway on the way to having it shipped, Barnes recalled.
The Army conducts the AER annual campaign March 1 through May 15. The campaign’s purpose is two-fold: to heighten awareness of the organization’s programs and services, and give Soldiers an opportunity to help their fellow Soldiers through voluntary contributions.
The AER program, which does not receive any appropriated or non-appropriated government money, also accepts unsolicited donations from individual donors and corporations.
For more information about AER, or to make a donation, visit www.aerhq.org. To speak to the USAG Stuttgart AER coordinator, Capt. Timothy Mitchell, call 431-2086/civ. 07031-15-2086.