As businesses shut down and people are laid off in response to the spread of the coronavirus, Jewish organizations are stepping up to help support vulnerable people in the community. One of those organizations is Jewish Free Loans Toronto (JFLT), which recently made available a loan for people struggling with the economic repercussions of COVID-19.
JFLT made sure applying for its new COVID-19 loan would be a smooth process, said Marra Messinger, executive director of JFLT. That means easy terms to meet and a quick turnaround. The organization is offering up to $2,500 loans with no guarantors, compared to its usual rate of $1,000 for no guarantors. It’s also offering $5,000 for one guarantor and $8,000 for two.
Messinger added that JFLT is streamlining the process of applying for these special COVID-19 loans. Instead of requiring people to come into the office for interviews prior to being accepted for loans and to pick up their cheques, it is now conducting its interviews by phone and depositing loans directly into people’s bank accounts. As well, it has also sped up its interview process. Before the coronavirus, JFLT would conduct interviews every two weeks, but now it is phoning people up as soon as it reasonably can, Messinger said.
All of JFLT’s loans are interest-free, in accordance with the biblical prohibition against charging interest and Maimonides’s belief that the highest level of charity is a loan or other source of support that puts a person on the path to self-sufficiency. The organization was first founded in 1924, to help support Jewish small businesses in Toronto. They were necessary for the Jewish community at the time since established businesses generally wouldn’t hire workers who couldn’t work on Saturdays.
“We know that there will be a financial hardship and crunch for a lot of people. And we have the means and ability to help people. That’s our raison d’être, to help people in need help themselves,” she said. “We just want everyone in the community to know that we are here to help.”
So far, Messinger said around 15 people have applied for the COVID-19 loan in the last few days, which is higher than the usual application rate. Messinger invites people in need to apply for the loans, and those with the means to do so to donate, as all of JFLT’s capital comes from donations and grants.
To apply or donate, go to https://jewishfreeloan.ca/corona-virus-loan/