While the federal government is discussing possible financial aid for those affected by the novel coronavirus COVID-19, Jewish free credit associations are getting involved from coast to coast to help those who have lost their jobs or have medical bills due to the pandemic.
The Jewish Free Loan Association (JFLA) in Los Angeles, the Hebrew Free Loan Association (HFLASF) in San Francisco, and the Hebrew Free Loan Society (HFLS) in New York recently launched loan programs that can help individuals and small businesses up to in a pandemic Offer $ 10,000 Interest Free Loans -related Needs.
“I suspect most of the problems will be related to the inability of small businesses to run payroll,” Cynthia Rogoway, executive director of HFLSF and president of the International Association of Jewish Free Loans, told the Journal. “Hopefully there will be some government program to relieve this type of pain. But when it comes to government programs, the average person in the community is really going to be unlucky. “
There are 46 Jewish credit unions across North America and one each in Australia and Israel. “Most agencies will offer support to people affected by coronavirus whether or not they have a program,” Rogoway said.
In some cases, the credit unions have relaxed their requirements in order to make it easier for people to borrow in times of crisis. In New York you need a guarantor instead of the usual two.
The pandemic “unfolds daily and no one knows what it’s going to be like in the coming weeks,” said Kelly Halligan, who is in charge of donor and community relations at JFLA. “We do our best to be proactive and one step ahead of the situation and have those dollars available to people when they need them.”
JFLA is providing the coronavirus loans for up to $ 10,000 toll-free to small businesses facing losses and individuals struggling with lost wages, childcare costs and money lost due to canceled travel plans, Halligan said. It has allocated $ 250,000 for coronavirus loans, added JFLA Executive Director Rachel Grose.
A loan is also available “when people need to cover medication or medical treatment because of the coronavirus,” said Nikki Sieger, program director at JFLA. Loans are also aimed at people “when they can’t pay their bills. Any kind of emergency that arises because they don’t get a salary, have to look after family members, or are in self-quarantine, “she said.
Borrowers in LA and New York can be of any belief. For those in Northern California applying through the HFLSF, low-income college students can be of any faith if placed by one of their partner social services, but must be Jewish otherwise.
“We do our best to be proactive and one step ahead of the situation and have those dollars available to people when they need them.”
– Kelly Halligan
With universities around the world closing their dormitories and sending students home, those studying abroad must create contingency plans that often include buying last-minute airline tickets and losing program fees. Kahal Abroad, an organization that supports Jewish students abroad, is working to connect those in need of financial assistance with the free credit agency near their hometown, Rogoway said.
Once an application is made, it can be processed in a matter of days, compared to the 10 business days it takes to process a non-emergency loan, JFLA’s Sieger said.
The repayment terms vary slightly from one lender to another. In San Francisco, people generally have a year to repay every thousand dollars they borrow. “People who have existing loans with us who have run into financial difficulties may need to slow their payments,” Rogoway said. “I expect these inquiries too.” The San Francisco agency can provide “a substantial amount” of coronavirus loans, she said, and “we will draw on our reserves if necessary.”
In New York, the repayment period is typically 20 months, “but if someone has circumstances that make this problematic, we will work with them,” said Rabbi David Rosenn, the company’s executive director. “Our mission is to make access to the credit they need affordable for people.”
At the time of going to press, no completed coronavirus loan applications had been submitted, announced the heads of the individual agencies. However, early indicators indicated high interest in the loans, Rosenn said, with 1,500 page views and the application itself downloaded several dozen times. Rosenn’s agency has initially allocated $ 1 million in coronavirus loans and is trying to allocate resources to provide “several million more,” he said, and HFLS is in the process of getting a $ 500,000 commitment from a major financial services company complete.
In contrast to special loan programs that were initiated during other emergencies, such as the shutdown of the federal government in December 2018 and January 2019, “there are no back payments and none of these will be made up at the end of the pandemic,” said Rosenn. “The federal government is talking about various incentive responses, but there will definitely be things that will fall through the cracks, especially for people on lower incomes,” he said. “We’re pretty confident that this will be used much more often than in previous emergencies.”
“By offering this type of support, it provides the financial help people desperately need now,” said Rogoway, “and gives everyone who hears about it a sense of emotional support – that there are agencies that are willing to to provide this kind of help. “
Debra Walnut Cohen is a journalist based in New York City.