Reducing stress on servicemembers helps to reduce stress on the force. That is where the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society can help. Ensuring that Sailors and Marines facing financial hardships receive assistance, and helping them learn to become financially stable have long been primary goals of the Society.
Unfortunately, servicemembers may sometimes become targets of predatory lenders offering easy credit, buy cars without considering the cost of insurance and maintenance, or commit to expenses that require a spouse’s income from a job that doesn’t transfer to a new duty station. As a result, debt can pile up surprisingly fast, and financial strain can make it difficult to deal with life’s day-to-day challenges, or to save for the future.
Several years ago, Society caseworkers and directors began to see servicemembers paying exorbitant interest rates on loans, then coming to NMCRS for help after beginning to spiral down the financial disaster path. The Society realized there was a need to create a program that would bring Sailors and Marines into our offices instead of going to payday lenders and other high-interest loan providers, and in 2007, launched the Quick Assist Loan (QAL) program.
Our QAL Program made it easy for eligible active duty Sailors and Marines to get up to $300 in less than 15 minutes, by walking into any of our 51 full service offices located around the world. We began to see an increase in the number of Sailors and Marines coming into our offices for financial assistance. We also began to see a reduction in the number of payday lenders doing business outside the gates of Navy and Marine Corps installations.
In 2012, after evaluating the QAL program, it was clear that the increased costs of food, gas, car repairs, and travel were driving up the demand for the amount of financial assistance needed to meet basic living and unforeseen, urgent expenses. As a result, we tested a pilot program to increase the QAL to a maximum of $500. After four months, the Society’s board of directors voted to expand the QAL limit to $500 across the Society. Today, eligible active duty Sailors and Marines can receive a $500 QAL quickly and easily. The payback period is flexible, between 3 and 10 months. The default rate on loan repayment continues to be less than 2 percent.
Although a QAL must be paid in full before a servicemember can qualify to receive another QAL, aid may be available through our traditional financial assistance. Those who request a third QAL must complete a financial fitness plan and meet with one of the Society’s financial educators to better determine the root cause of the financial stress.
Our philosophy remains the same: to help people change detrimental financial behaviors by educating them about how to create and stick to a budget, assessing their financial health, and learning to manage their debt. The QAL program allows the Society to reach more Sailors and Marines, provide interest-free solutions to meet urgent needs, make referrals for additional resources, and minimize servicemembers’ time away from work. To learn more, visit www.nmcrs.org/QAL.