Now in 80th year, AER continues to help Soldiers, Families

Emily Borish, Western Kentucky University student, and her father retired Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Borish, an information technology specialist at Fort Campbell’s Network Enterprise Center, meet for lunch March 12, 2021, at Hooper Grille. Emily is received scholarship assistance through Army Emergency Relief’s Maj. Gen. James Ursano Scholarship Program.

Army Emergency Relief funds go toward helping Soldiers and Families experiencing financial crises among other programs including scholarships. This year, Fort Campbell hopes to raise $200,000 in contributions, said Terrence Jones, Fort Campbell Army Community Service-Financial Readiness Program manager.

Fort Campbell will host an AER kick off ceremony Feb. 1 at division headquarters with guest speaker retired Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, AER Headquarters director. Mason will meet with unit leaders to discuss AER funds and how the funds have been used, and to get feedback on the program. The event is invitation only to comply with COVID-19 mitigation measures.

The 80th annual AER campaign officially begins March 1, when Soldiers and civilians can begin making contributions, Jones said.

Jones has high hopes for this year’s round of contributions and said the campaign is an opportunity for Soldiers to help one another.

“The AER campaign is conducted annually at every military installation in order to increase Soldiers’ awareness of this valuable benefit, as well as offer them the opportunity to help their fellow Soldiers by contributing to the campaign,” he said.

What is AER

AER was established in 1942 and created to assist Soldiers and Families during financial emergencies through small, zero-interest loans or grants.

The funds are intended to resolve immediate financial needs with rent or mortgage payments, utilities, food, and other emergencies including funerals. More recently, AER expanded the list of eligible expenses because of the COVID-19 pandemic to include personal transportation costs such as fuel, auto insurance, and car payments.

Since 1942 AER has assisted more than 4 million Soldiers and Family members with more than $2 billion in support. Annually, it provides more than $50 million in zero-interest loans and $10 million in grants to more than 45,000 Soldiers, and another $10 million in educational scholarships for military spouses and children.

Educational scholarships

Emily Borish, who attends Western Kentucky University, is among many students from the Fort Campbell area making use of educational assistance through the Maj. Gen. James Ursano Scholarship.

Dependent children can apply for the Maj. Gen. James Ursano Scholarship Program through April 1, while Army spouses can apply for the Mrs. Patty Shinseki Spouse Scholarship Program year-round.

“It’s helped tremendously to keep my loans down and ease my financial stress,” said Borish, in a March 2021 Fort Campbell Courier interview. “I’ve gotten it every year so far, and I definitely rely on it.”

AER assistance is even more important for students like Borish, who may not meet the requirements for other military scholarship programs.

“My dad retired from the Army after 20 years of service,” she said. “I didn’t qualify for the other major scholarships military kids can get, like the Post-9/11 GI Bill, because my dad had been retired for too long when I was going into college.”

Soldiers helping Soldiers

“AER is a great tool for unit commanders for their unit readiness goals,” he said. “Our Soldiers and Families should not be disadvantaged in time of financial need. It is an invaluable resource that ensures Soldiers are prepared to fight and win our nation’s wars and provides Soldiers and Families a helping hand when they need it most.”

AER has been especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones said. The global crisis has led to an increase in financial need in the community, so now more than ever, contributions are needed.

“I hope to see more participation and support throughout the installation from leaders and Soldiers this campaign cycle,” he said. “People need this fund for things like overdue rent, car repairs, and emergency leave, and so it’s important to have this fund and that Soldiers help one another. It keeps them from going off post to seek those high-interest loans.”

The number of people who have utilized the program over the past 18 months has increased significantly because of the challenges COVID-19 has presented, Jones said, specifically in the employment status and earning capacity of military spouses.

The contribution window at Fort Campbell opens March 1 and closes May 13. Soldiers who want to make a donation can do so by going through their unit leaders. Soldiers and civilians also can go online to where they can set up a one-time contribution or opt to make a monthly donation.

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