January 20, 2019

JFLA Increases Cap for Fire Victims

The nonprofit Jewish Free  Loan Association (JFLA) of Los Angeles has increased its personal emergency loan cap to $15,000 for those affected by the Woolsey Fire, while small business impacted by the fires can apply for up to $30,000 in loans. JFLA has been offering interest-free loans to Los Angeles and Ventura County residents on a nonsectarian basis since 1904.

“Jewish Free Loan is pretty well positioned to help in emergency situations, whether it’s fire, an earthquake, a medical issue, any emergency,” Executive Director Rachel Grose told the Journal.  

JFLA quickly got the word out about their availability to help following the fires. However, once the organization grasped the depth of the losses, it raised its regular $5,000 personal loan cap.  

“People need to rebuild,” Grose said. “And a lot of times, even if insurance is going to cover everything, there’s a lag time. They still need clothing and basic essentials: pots and pans, sheets, blankets. They are out-of-pocket for those items, and not everyone has the savings to cover that.”

Among those the JFLA has already helped since the November fires is a 77-year-old widow whose mobile home burned. “Everything she owned was destroyed, so we gave her a loan to help with moving expenses and to purchase everything new,” Grose said. 

 “We’re going to be here as long as people need [loans] for the fires.” 

— Rachel Grose

Another woman, whose house survived but was left without power, had to stay in a motel. She received a JFLA loan to pay that out-of-pocket, short-term expense.

Grose said despite many people’s immediate needs, they aren’t necessarily emotionally ready to move forward. “They need to absorb the shock, assess what they need and understand what their insurance is going to pay for,” she said. “One of the things that we’ve been hearing is that a lot of the insurance plans don’t help with smoke damage.”

Fire victims can apply for a JFLA loan by filling out the pre-loan application at www.JFLA.org. Intake staff will then call them to go over the details. 

After that, applicants will meet with a loan analyst to discuss their budget, what they need and what kind of loan they can afford.

“Normally the clients come in and meet with a loan analyst, but in some cases the borrowers don’t have transportation because of the fire,” said JFLA Outreach Manager Batya Ordin. “We’re willing to do the interview over the phone or Skype when that’s necessary.”

Applicants will need guarantors for their loans and once all the paperwork is in order, the information will be presented at the weekly loan committee meeting. “The loans are reviewed, the checks are issued and the clients are notified,” Grose said. “They can come in and pick up their check or we can mail it to them.”

JFLA currently has nearly $11 million in microloans out in the community, ranging from $500 to $50,000.  Loans are available for a variety of needs including life events, home healthcare, fertility treatments and adoption, post-high school education, children with special needs and women fleeing domestic violence. JFLA loans accrue neither fees nor interest.

“Our underlying goal is to make these loans to help people,” Grose said. “We’re going to be here as long as people need [loans] for the fires and afterwards for all their other needs.”