Editor's Note: This article by MOAA's staff is part of the MOAA Charities 2020 Impact Report, a version of which first appeared in the November 2020 issue of Military Officer, a magazine available to all MOAA Premium and Life members. Learn more about the magazine here; learn more about joining MOAA here.
As the nation continues to endure the effects of the spread of the novel coronavirus, The MOAA Foundation is focused on providing enhanced levels of support and services to all uniformed services (including NOAA and USPHS), veterans, and their families, with a special emphasis on filling the gap in support for veterans and caregivers.
In the spring, the foundation established the COVID-19 Relief Fund, which helps in three critical areas: relief grants to qualifying MOAA chapters supporting critical needs in local communities; Emergency Financial Relief Grants of up to $500 for those not served by military relief societies; and enhanced virtual events including virtual career fairs, webinars, and finance and benefits briefs for those seeking employment support.
At the onset of the pandemic, the foundation immediately distributed $55,000 to 11 MOAA chapters across the country to combat veteran homelessness, assist with rent/utilities payments and meals, and more. This effort was made possible by the overwhelming generosity of members nationwide.
That generosity makes it possible for the foundation to continue offering Emergency Financial Relief Grants to members of the military and veteran community who are struggling to fend off economic disaster.
Grants of up to $500 per household are available. Some of these grants already have made a difference.
One recipient said: “I am very grateful for your help. … Financially, it has been very difficult and stressful since my wife lost both of her jobs. … This assistance will help us greatly with paying our bills for this month, and we can provide our children with [food]. The next few months are uncertain, but we will remain positive because organizations like MOAA have given us hope.”
Another said: “I am the sole income earner for my family, as my wife is disabled and not able to work. I have been looking for other employment opportunities, but so too are thousands of others. Being able to take care of my wife’s medical needs right away blessed me and my family.”
And another: “My wife and I were previously homeless. Until MOAA came through, we were facing the same problem yet again. Thank you.”
As a MOAA chapter official said, “Veterans are reluctant to come forward and say, ‘I need help’ until the very last minute.” For many, that “last minute” has arrived.
‘Not all military families, both active and retired, have historically had enough wealth to save for their children’s educations; pay for unforeseen medical costs; and pay for exorbitant transportation, purchase, and maintenance costs.’
After extensive research, foundation staff learned another military service organization offering similar grants was so overwhelmed by requests after their application window opened that they had to stop taking in applications after three days. With that in mind, the foundation began slowly rolling out our program by promoting solely through the MOAA chapter system. Since we started taking applications June 5, the foundation has awarded 108 grants, totaling just over $53,000.
Since then, we have worked with The Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Fellows and Hidden Heroes Caregivers, as well as Blue Star Families, and the National Guard Association’s executive directors to promote the grants.
Grants are available to currently serving members and their spouses, veterans with honorable discharges or caregivers of the same, and surviving spouses. Applicants are asked to prove negative financial impact from the COVID-19 crisis as part of the application process.
All ranks are eligible. Preference will be given to veterans and caregivers and those not eligible for other relief programs, such as service relief societies.
The COVID-19 Relief Fund helps with:
- Auto loan/lease
- Utilities such as electricity,water, and heat
- Cellphone payments
- Internet access
Additional grant categories, outside of the list above, will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
- Applications must include a copy of debt documentation —for example, a utility bill.
- Apartment lease and/or latenotice is required when requesting assistance with rent.
- Proof of negative financialimpact such as a layoff, reduced hours, or furlough.
The Way Ahead
Our team continues to monitor the number of grant applications received to determine emerging needs. With the introduction of our new digital application, we hope to process even more applications and get funds to those who need it most.
Our highest priority is to continue meeting the needs of the greater military community, especially those not served by other relief agencies. We will do so until need no longer exists or until funds are completely exhausted.