Since March, when Hebrew Free Loan Association of Greater Washington launched an emergency loan program to support area Jews caught in economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, the agency has distributed about $60,000 in 31 loans.
Zero-interest loans up to $2,500 support people’s medical costs, lost wages, newly found childcare needs and other pandemic-related expenses.
“I’ve had a few borrowers sort of cry in appreciation of what we’ve been able to do,” said Shuli Tropp, the association’s executive director.
One borrower was a preschool teacher who was unable to work during the summer. The emergency loan supplemented her lost income until school started in the fall, Tropp said. Another teacher used the loan to replace money lost when a tutoring side business evaporated.
One recipient was an Uber driver whose business dried up in the pandemic. Another loan went to parents who needed to hire someone to watch their kids so the parents could work. One loan went to a woman who was furloughed and had two children with special needs to support, Tropp said.
Some borrowers are small business owners who need financial support, while others need the money to hold them over until unemployment benefits kick in, Tropp said.
“A lot of people are hustlers who work really hard to figure out how to make ends meet, and with COVID they are a lot more limited in the additional income that they were able to bring forward,” she said. “So we saw a lot of people who are struggling in that sense, people who are still working, are still being paid, but not enough.”
The last time the Hebrew Free Loan Association initiated an emergency program was during the 35-day federal government shutdown of 2018-2019.
“So this is a very different kind of scenario. This a long-term challenge, and it’s going to be a long-term repayment process,” Tropp said of the pandemic-related loans.
She said requests for emergency loans will increase in September as federal government assistance expires. If need exhausts the association’s ability to give, it will fundraise and apply for grants, Tropp said.
For information on emergency loans, visit https://hebrewfreeloandc.org/