Only 28 percent of military families say their finances have not been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new figures in Blue Star Families’ Pain Points Poll. Thirty-seven percent of military spouses reported having lost their jobs or having their hours reduced, and 28% of veterans responding to the poll have reported the same.

For organizations dedicated to providing direct assistance to military families, “a worldwide pandemic is kind of like a very bad hurricane writ large,” said John Hopper, CEO of the Air Force Aid Society.

Hopper joined other relief organization leaders and financial services professionals on Tuesday’s CMSI town hall.

Cari Thomas, the CEO of Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA), said her organization is using lessons it learned when Coast Guard members went without paychecks during the partial government shutdown at the beginning of last year.

CGMA is “prepared for the long haul” as military families realize their needs and is even ready to help with funeral costs if necessary, she said. Army Emergency Relief has already supported three funerals, according to its director, Ray Mason.

The panelists urged service members to be open about what they need and to consider all their financial options.

“So many of our military families are going to be using their credit cards to bridge this gap,” said Steve Lepper, president of the Association of Military Banks of America. “Bear in mind that unless you pay off your debt in the billing period, you’re going to have to pay some substantial interest payments. Don’t dig yourself into a hole you can’t get out of.”

Almost three in 10 Pain Points Poll respondents have or plan to use credit cards to help cover expenses during reduced income, according to the latest results.

Army photo by Reserve Maj. Tom Piernicky