By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Oct. 30, 2017) -- Nine weeks ago, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas -- the first of three devastating storms this year to wreak havoc on the United States and its territories. Since then, Army Emergency Relief has been ready to help Soldiers affected by those storms.
"AER is there to help Soldiers and their families," said C. Eldon Mullis, the deputy director and chief operating officer of Army Emergency Relief. "They need to come to us and tell us what their need is. We want to make sure there is a valid need, and if we can help, we certainly want to do that."
According to a document released by AER earlier this month, financial assistance is available to qualified recipients affected by those three hurricanes to, among other things, purchase immediate-need items such as food, clothing and shelter; replace essential furniture; fund replacement of damaged or destroyed automobiles; conduct minor home repairs; and purchase generators.
"Since our founding in 1942, whenever and wherever AER is needed, we are there; which is particularly important when Soldiers are facing the financial burden of recovering from the devastating impact of natural disasters, such as the recent hurricanes and wildfires," said retired Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, the director of AER. "AER is all about taking care of the Army team."
Mullis said that many recipients of AER had also asked for assistance in advance of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma so they could evacuate Texas, Georgia and Florida.
"Evacuation was the biggest piece, in Texas, Georgia and Florida," he said. But after those storms passed, the requests for assistance changed.
"After the hurricanes, what we are seeing is requests for help for things like covering costs for immediate needs until insurance and FEMA claims can be filed," he said. "If they need help with a down payment on another car, because theirs is flooded, we can help with that."
AER can assist up to $4,000, for instance, if the cost to repair a flood-damaged vehicle exceeds the value of the vehicle.
Already, Mullis said, AER has provided $380,000 worth of assistance to 540 qualified recipients in Texas, Georgia, Florida and Puerto Rico. But he said he thinks more people can be helped in those areas -- if only they'd come forward.
"I would hope that everybody who is eligible and has a valid need would come by and ask for help," he said. "We want to be there for them. Call your AER officer, speak with the staff there, tell them what you need assistance for, and if the need is there, they will cut a check."
Eligible recipients of AER assistance include active duty Soldiers and their Families, retired Soldiers, and National Guard and Reserve Soldiers on Title 10 orders for more than 30 days.
As a result of the recent spate of natural disasters, including all three hurricanes and the wildfires in the U.S. Northwest and California, eligibility for AER funding has also been extended to National Guard Soldiers who have been called up by their state to assist in natural disaster relief. That includes the many Soldiers in the Puerto Rico National Guard who are assisting there with Hurricane Maria relief, and who may have themselves been affected by that storm.
Mullis invited those Soldiers to visit the Army Emergency Relief office located at Ft. Buchanan. Soldiers can also contact the Primary AER officer there at 787-600-9026, he said, to seek assistance.
"Please come," he said. "We want to give out money to help those in need."