The Preamble to The American Legion Constitution sums up the theme of the National Endowment Fund, “… devotion to mutual helpfulness.” This phrase is more than just mere words on paper; it’s our pledge of support to Legionnaires and their family members. Since the early 1920s, The American Legion has been actively involved in meeting the needs of both the community and individual Legion Family members in the wake of disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and wildfires.
The National Emergency Fund, created in response to Hurricane Hugo in 1989, has provided more than $8 million in direct financial assistance to American Legion Family members and posts. By providing this emergency funding, NEF has prevented damaged posts from closing and enabled American Legion Family members to recover from tragedy.
NEF helps those affected by well-known disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy and lesser-publicized tragedies such as flooding in South Dakota or Illinois, or wildfires in the southwest.
The fund provides up to $3,000 for qualified Legion Family members and up to $10,000 for posts. The eligibility requirements are:
- Applicant must have been displaced from their primary residence due to damage sustained during a declared natural disaster.
- Applicant must provide copies of receipts of items required to meet immediate needs (such as temporary housing, food, water, clothing, diapers, etc.) during the period immediately following the disaster.
- Membership must be active at time of disaster and the time of application.
Mandatory evacuation orders are not in themselves sufficient for NEF grant eligibility since government-provided shelter is presumed to be available. If members are in need of continuing housing after a disaster because of damages sustained to their homes and the home is not available to be occupied, they should go to https://www.disasterassistance.gov or the local FEMA Disaster Center for FEMA Transitional Sheltering Assistance. If member is unable to get FEMA or other government provided temporary housing, members may apply for an individual NEF grant or TFA within the restrictions established for each fund.
For Individual NEF grants: Applicant must have been displaced from their primary residence which sustained damages from the hurricane and/or follow-on flooding. The NEF application and instruction sheet outline the necessary documentation and the process to follow. The application may be found at the following link on the national website https://www.legion.org/emergency or from the department. Applications should have receipts for out of pocket expenses such as temporary housing, food while displaced and other essentials to survive during the displaced period. The intent of the fund is not to replace household goods or the living facilities. These are insurance items. The fund is to be used to offset expenses needed in order to survive during the disaster period. Supporting data (photos, hotel, gas and food receipts, etc.) should be included or statements (testimony) from post/district/department officers attesting to damages or extraordinary circumstances.
NEF does NOT replace insurance and does not cover monetary losses from a business, structures on member’s property (such as barns, tool sheds, etc.), vacation homes, equipment or personal vehicles. American Legion or Sons of The American Legion membership must be active at time of disaster and the time of application. If member is unable to obtain government provided housing and has to stay in temporary lodging, an application must be accompanied by receipts which will be reviewed during the approval process. Receipts older than three weeks after the disaster are not normally considered as “immediate and essential” expenses, but may be considered on an exception basis.
Post grants must state why The American Legion post will cease to perform the duties and activities in the community due to losses sustained. In addition, posts that served as community service centers during the disaster may also be eligible for a grant to offset their costs in providing food and other services to members of their community during these disasters.
ALL applications must be mailed or emailed to the department headquarters for endorsement and processing. For any questions on NEF, contact the Department Adjutant at 919-832-7506 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The true character of a state, organization or its people is revealed in times of crisis or disaster. We can always look back and see where we could have provided more, or done things better. But then again, hindsight is 20/20. We learn from all of our experiences, both good and bad. We can be proud to call ourselves Legionnaires.