Over 1,000 soldiers and Army families who received loans this year from Army emergency relief are about to get a windfall because the nonprofit is writing off those debts, converting them into grants instead.

The AER, which provides interest-free loans and grants to eligible families, earlier this year expanded its categories of assistance to cover financial emergencies related to COVID-19.

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It also increased the number of people eligible for assistance to include 28,000 additional guards and reservists activated for the COVID-19 response, as well as their families.

Typically, AER is available to active duty soldiers and their families, as well as military retirees; widows and orphans of soldiers who died in active service or after retirement; medical retirees and their families; and members of the Guard and Reserve who have been activated for more than 30 days.

The expansion now covers the military National Guard and reservists for activations of less than 30 days.

Now program officials have said they are individually reviewing all loans made this year – around 13,000 loans worth around $ 23 million – and forgiving those made in response to the “unique challenges” of 2020, said the retired lieutenant general. Ray Mason, director of the AER in a press release. Officials estimate the process will write off about $ 1 million in debt.

“Our goal is to identify loans issued in response to some of the unique challenges we have faced this year and to eliminate the repayment requirement on these loans,” he said. “In doing so, we believe we will convert $ 1 million in loans into grants and potentially change the financial future of more than 1,000 soldiers and their families.”

Like loans from other military service relief organizations, AERs are typically repaid through military paycheck awards. The organization has already awarded 4,000 grants this year worth about $ 5 million, Mason said, and $ 23 million in loans. Most of this money is collected through donations from other military families as part of an annual fundraising campaign.

Soldiers and military families cannot request the cancellation of the 2020 AER loan, Mason said. Instead, those with approved debts will be contacted individually.

– Amy Bushatz can be contacted at [email protected]

Related: About Army Emergency Relief

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on October 26 to reflect an update to the source of the AER statements. Statements in the AER press release are from Ray Mason.

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