Army Emergency Relief

Food pantry (U.S. Marine Corps/Betzabeth Y. Galvan)
Food pantry (U.S. Marine Corps/Betzabeth Y. Galvan)

No military family wants to have financial problems. When they hit, it can be hard to know where to turn and what to do. Fast-cash payday lenders may seem like a good idea when you're in a pinch, but they come with many downsides, including high interest rates and practices federal watchdogs have ruled predatory.

That's why military aid organizations are so important. For Army families, Army Emergency Relief fills that vital role, providing both grants and zero interest loans when soldiers are faced with financial or family emergencies.

With more than 200 AER officers at 70 Army installations worldwide, it's never been easier to apply for assistance. They have provided help to more than 4 million Army families with more than $2 million in assistance through December 2020.

How can AER help you? Here's more information.

Who qualifies for Army Emergency Relief?

Almost all active-duty soldiers and their dependents qualify for AER help, as well as military retirees; widows and orphans of soldiers who died on active duty or after retirement; medical retirees and their families; and members of the Guard and Reserve who have been activated for more than 30 days.

While most soldiers can take their problems directly to AER without going through their chain of command, those who have been on active duty less than a year, who have made two or more previous AER requests in the last 12 months, and those who exhibit "high risk" financial habits cannot. Instead, they must access AER help through their unit.

What does Army Emergency Relief do?

AER can provide qualifying soldiers and their families with zero interest loans or grants.

AER also has a spouse and dependent needs-based scholarship program. Although the scholarship program for military children has an annual application deadline each spring, the spouse scholarship is awarded on a rolling basis.

What will Army Emergency Relief help with?

If it's a financial emergency, AER likely can help. Those needs could include rent and mortgage; vehicle repairs; emergency travel; utilities and utility deposits; funeral expenses; medical expenses; food; paycheck problems; PCS expenses; appliance or home heating or cool repair or replacement; loss of funds; furniture replacement; car seats; and vehicle rentals.

Over the years, AER has added things it will help with based on the needs it sees. For example, in June 2021, it added $1 million in grants to provide disaster relief assistance to help service members and others with needs ranging from preparation to evacuation.

In 2020, AER helped parents with additional expenses from virtual schooling and child care in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also now offers assistance for the transportation of pets when a family moves on military orders.

What doesn't AER help with? Anything that could be seen as nonessential, including vacations. It also doesn't help pay fines or legal expenses, cover bad checks, or pay for home purchases or improvements.

How to get Army Emergency Relief help

To receive AER help, you must fill out the program's forms, demonstrate the help you need with documentation, and present your identification. If applying without your service member, present your special power of attorney. You can find a list of needed documentation and IDs on the AER website.

The site lets you fill out all of the forms online so you're ready to apply when you arrive at the AER office.

What if I don't live near an Army Emergency Relief office?

If you're stationed on the base of a different military service, that service's aid society can help you access AER help. Don't live near a base at all? AER works with the American Red Cross to help those who don't live near an AER location. Call 1-877-272-7337, then select option 1 for financial assistance.

How to repay your Army Emergency Relief Loan

AER doesn't charge late fees for its zero interest loans, but it does require you to repay them. Your payment amounts will be determined by your AER officer. Active-duty soldiers and families can pay by paycheck allotment, which AER can set up for you. You also can pay online or through check or money order. You can view your outstanding loan on AER's website.

Keep Up with the Ins and Outs of Military Life

For the latest military news and tips on military family benefits and more, subscribe to and have the information you need delivered directly to your inbox.

Story Continues