Hebrew Free Loans: financial assistance during COVID-19

Dallas and Tarrant County agencies offer Zero-interest loans

By Amy Sorter

According to its website, the mission of the International Association of Jewish Free Loans (IAJFL) organization is “to help people with temporary financial needs to become or remain self-supporting, self-respecting members of their community, by the aid of interest-free loans.” In the face of COVID-19’s financial impact, two local IAJFL agencies are aiding the mission to help support and fund, the North Texas Jewish Community.

While both local organizations serve different populations, they share one common factor: zero-interest loans, based on the biblical mandate that no Jew should charge interest on loans to other Jews. These agencies share something else in common: namely, that very few members of the greater Dallas Jewish community and Tarrant County Jewish community have applied for financial help during the coronavirus outbreak.

As of this writing, “we have given one business loan to date, to help a client in covering expenses for employees during this difficult period,” Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association (DHFLA) Board President Helen Waldman said. She added that additional, smaller loans have been disbursed to individuals requiring assistance with medical bills. Meanwhile, the Tarrant County Hebrew Free Loan Association (TCHFLA) did attract interest from one individual. However, “it turns out he wasn’t of the Jewish faith,” said Graham Brizendine, president of the agency.

This, in fact, underlines one major requirement of both HFLAs: Loan applicants must be Jewish. Affiliation with a shul, however, is not necessary. Another necessity is a guarantor, someone who can pay off the loan if the applicant is unable to do so. Guarantors can be family members, friends or members of the community, as long as their credit ratings are good. Both Brizendine and Waldman said that, over the years, borrowers have succeeded in paying their debt; only rarely has a guarantor needed to step in to help.

Similarities aside, the organizations have different approaches when it comes to lending the money. The DHFLA offers specific programs, ranging from business loans, to adoption and fertility loans, to emergency loans and “small amounts to those who need money quickly,” Waldman said. The maximum amount on a general loan is $7,500; the target area for the DHLFA is the Greater Dallas area, including Dallas and Collin counties.

Meanwhile, TCHFLA cuts checks to approved applicants for any purpose, with $5,000 the maximum amount available. “We don’t dictate what the loans can be used for, as long as they aren’t going to Winstar to gamble with it,” Brizendine said, adding that the funds can be used to buy food or to pay a mortgage. Loan applicants must reside in Tarrant County, though Brizendine indicated the organization could also help Jews in immediate surrounding areas.

While both agencies have different disbursement methods and programs, both of the organization’s leaders are adamant that they are open for business, and would like to see more people using them as a financial resource during the coronavirus pandemic. “We really want to help people, to help our community,” Waldman said, adding that the DHFLA is operating the same as it always has, “doing business as usual.”

“The biggest thing to stress at this time, is that we can be a resource to help them weather the storm,” Brizendine added. “We have the funds, and we want to deploy those resources into the community.”

Due to COVID-19 quarantine measures, the TCHFLA and DHFLA are accepting applications primarily via email. Contact the DHFLA through its website, dhfla.org, or by calling 469-607-3430. Those interested in working with the TCHFLA can contact the agency through the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth & Tarrant County at  www.tarrantfederation.org, or via email at TCHFLA@yahoo.com.

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