BURLINGTON – The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in one of the most severe economic downturns in modern history, and many Greater Boston Jews are hurting. Right on time, a recently formed 501 (c) (3) called the Boston Free Loan Society is offering interest-free loans from $500 to $10,000 for individuals, families, or nonprofits in acute financial distress.
Burlington resident Art Fisher decided to found an interest-free loan society after retiring last summer. He discovered that no such lending programs were active in Greater Boston. After conferring with Combined Jewish Philanthropies and Family & Children’s Service (which have since joined forces with JFS of Metrowest to create the CJP Interest-Free Loan Program), Fisher decided to form and organize and assemble a board that would provide people with cash for emergency situations. He assembled a Board, which includes a Rabbi and a case manager at a Jewish social services agency.
“Our basic mission is to help someone get over a crisis – food, healthcare, shelter, education, but also vocational training, psychological counseling – things to help people get over a hump in their life and be transformational,” said Fisher, who noted that BFL loans cannot help with credit card or other loan consolidation, additional loans, or people living in chronic poverty who can’t afford principal repayments.
“Someone who is living hand-to-mouth month-to-month we really couldn’t help, because a loan wouldn’t solve their problem – it would just give them another payment to worry about,” said Fisher. Boston Free Loan is also offering up to $50,000 line of credit loans to Jewish nonprofit organizations in Greater Boston.
With the outbreak of coronavirus, Fisher said that loans are available now and can be approved and distributed in a matter of days. “I expect we’ll do more loans in a shorter time frame, and be more liberal in our lending criteria,” he said.
Fisher, who attends Temple Emunah in Lexington and is a mentor for Jewish Big Brothers Big Sister, spent the last 10 years of his career in commercial lending, and has also worked in real estate and high-tech research. “I’ve been in commercial lending and residential real estate and I saw a lot of people in distress, and I wanted to find a way to give back,” said Fisher. “I learned the transformational opportunities access to capital can give people.”
Visit bosfreeloan.org for more information.