After Gov. Mike DeWine closed all Ohio schools March 12, the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Northeast Ohio didn’t waste time enacting an expedited emergency loan program, which loans individuals up to $1,500 interest free.
The next day, the Beachwood-based organization received 60 calls, and the number only increased after bars and restaurants were ordered to shut down in the days following.
The loans are meant for Northeast Ohioans who have been impacted in some way by the COVID-19 pandemic, whether that means loss of income, a sudden need for funds to pay for child care or another need.
Executive Director Michal Marcus said the organization typically requires a guarantor on loans it offers up to $10,000. For the expedited $1,500 loans, all that’s required to apply is an application and documentation.
“These are being written directly to individuals because we know if you are a restaurant worker, or in some type of service industry that isn’t working now and you aren’t getting income, you are going to need that money to buy groceries, you are going to need that money to pay a babysitter,” Marcus said. “There are needs where we can’t write it directly to the source of need.”
In the first week of expedited loans, HFLA was able to provide same-day turnaround on the loans once an application was complete and a promissory note was signed. HFLA is using DocuSign so the loans can be signed electronically.
Marcus said because her organization is now working remotely, checks could take three to five days to appear for loans because “it’s coming directly from the bank and we are trying to have as little physical touch as possible.”
In the first week of the program, Marcus said she saw “a lot of anxiety” around the impact of the pandemic and the unknown end date.
She said the first person to receive an emergency loan was a single mother working at University Hospitals who now needs to pay for child care since her children are out of school. More loans went to those in the restaurant industry, and she’s been contacted by substitute teachers who don’t get paid if they aren’t in school.
The HFLA expedited loans are generally targeted toward individuals, although Marcus said small businesses are also likely to suffer and need larger loans.
Marcus also said she was grateful for HFLA’s supporters who have reached out to ask how they can help the organization continue on its path.
“That has been kind of heartwarming to know – seeing how much people care,” she said. “And we do need it, our funds will run out.”
For more information, visit interestfree.org.