In 1904, a small group of businessmen met in the thriving city of Los Angeles to establish an organization to grant loans to the needy without interest or any other charges. These loans were granted to help buy a sewing machine or a pushcart for fruits and vegetables. Throughout the 20th century, JFLA has played a vital role in the community, as an original member of Community Chest in 1927, the precursor to the United Way. In 1929, JFLA moved into the Federation of Jewish Welfare building and has since remained a beneficiary agency of The Jewish Federation.
During World War II, JFLA was instrumental in helping thousands of families get a fresh start in the US; after the Watts riots in 1965, JFLA assisted businesses in rebuilding; in the late 1980′s, with the rising costs of higher education, JFLA created the first of its many student loan funds; and in 1994, in the wake of the Northridge earthquake, JFLA granted cash loans to those who had to vacate their homes or who could not access bank accounts.
JFLA remains the only interest-free lending agency in greater LA County serving the working poor who subsist just above the poverty level and are able to pay back small loans over a few years. JFLA’s clients have nowhere else to turn. An interest-free loan is a critical factor in their lives that provides essential support for the client or their family.
JFLA’s traditional caseload of the working poor has expanded in recent years to include clients in the middle class as they struggle to provide for their families during the economic downturn. Many of the clients served in this caseload lost their jobs and either took lower paying positions or went back to school to retrain.
JFLA serves an average of 1,200 clients annually. There is currently more than $12 million in interest-free loans circulating through the community, assisting those in need. JFLA prides itself on a greater than 99% repayment rate.
JFLA’s interest-free loans are used for emergencies of all kinds, housing and rental issues, home healthcare, Alzheimer’s & dementia care, fall prevention, post-secondary education, medical & dental expenses, women fleeing domestic violence, children with special needs, summer camp, Israel experience, life cycle events and small business assistance.