Is it possible for a Sailor or Marine to obtain a quick, interest-free loan? If you answered no, then you’ve never heard of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS), even though one of its offices can be found right here within the gates of Naval Air Station Patuxent River.
Recently celebrating its 110th anniversary, NMCRS provides financial assistance and counseling, as well as other programs, to members of the Navy and Marines, their eligible family members, widows and survivors.
“We’ve been at Pax since the 1960s,” explained Maureen Farrell, director of the Patuxent River NMCRS office. “Our purpose is to assist Sailors and Marines — active duty and retired — with financial emergencies in the form of interest-free loans, grants and financial education.”
Farrell clarified some of those financial emergencies as unexpected auto repairs or insurance deductibles, medical expenses, essential home repairs, security and utility deposits when establishing a new residence, emergency travel for funerals or illness, rent or mortgage payments and even purchasing groceries.
“Most of our assistance is in the form of interest-free loans and most of our clients are E-3 to E-5, but we see officers, too,” Farrell said. “Just because you have a bigger paycheck doesn’t mean you’re a better money manager; and life sometimes gets in the way. No one knows when an emergency like a death or serious illness will come up and complicate a financial situation.”
NMCRS is open to everyone regardless of rate or rank, and Farrell said 2013 showed an upswing in assistance to the retired military population.
“It mostly had to do with problems in the government,” she said. “Furloughs and people losing their jobs due to contract cutbacks made it a busy year assisting retirees.”
Anyone in need of assistance can visit the NMCRS office and meet with a trained caseworker who will review the situation and offer resource guidance and budget planning. If approved for a grant or loan, clients will leave the office with the money they need that same day. If their need is $500 or less, a Quick Assist Loan (QAL) may be all that’s necessary.
“The idea of the QAL is to combat our service members turning to predatory lenders [with ridiculously high interest rates],” Farrell said. Active Duty service members can get an interest-free loan up to $500 in just 15 minutes or less with their LES and ID card in hand.”
While regular loans require a budget, QALs do not; but they do come with other restrictions.
“And, after receiving a third QAL, a budget is necessary,” Farrell said. “It’s rewarding when people do a budget because they come to realize what’s going on in their finances — and they’re really the only ones who have the ability to make the necessary changes.”
Anyone receiving relief from NMCRS need not worry about their situation becoming public knowledge.
“We take confidentiality very seriously and our clients’ business stays in this office,” Farrell said. “We do not release any information without the service member’s permission.”
With a limited number of military serving at Pax River, the local NMCRS operates part-time and relies heavily on volunteers to staff the office. Farrell is the only paid employee.
“We currently have 12 dedicated volunteers,” she said, “which means there are three volunteers available each day we’re open.”
The volunteers run the gamut from retired service members to military spouses and former government employees. Some have worked at other NMCRS offices in this country and around the world. All have undergone training and are ready and willing to help.
“No one wants to ask for financial assistance,” Farrell said, “but when they do, they’ll find a competent and kind group of volunteers to help them.”
In addition to loans and grants, NMCRS provides free in-home service with their Visiting Nurse Program, education seminars such as Budgeting for Baby, and around the clock coverage through After Hours Chiefs. Look for these topics to be covered in Tester during the next few weeks.
Headquartered in Arlington, Va., the society is a non-profit, charitable organization that is staffed by nearly 3,700 volunteers and a small cadre of employees in offices around the world — both ashore and aboard ships.
The Pax River NMCRS office is located in Building 401. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.nmcrs.org, phone 301-342-4739 or email Maureen.Farrell@nmcrs.org.