Featured image: Business Loan-Recipient, Evan; Owner of Peaceful Fruits


When we say that HFLA of Northeast Ohio’s loans are designed for people who are unable to access traditional financing, we mean that a person may have been denied a loan through their bank or credit union. If you are unsure contact our program staff to see if you qualify. If we receive an application that looks like a person may be eligible for traditional financing, we may require you to apply with your financial institution first. Our funds are limited and must be used for those who truly cannot access other means of financing.

HFLA of Northeast Ohio looks at each application as a unique application. Every person/family has different income, and also has different expenses. Our programmatic staff must be able to verify your income and to see that you have the ability to pay your regular monthly expenses in addition to a loan payment to us. If you have concerns about your income eligibility, please call the office at 216-378-9042 or email us at team@interestfree.org.

Credit is just one factor in our loan qualification process. We do not have a specific score that we are looking for—rather, our staff looks at our applicants’ credit to verify their debt obligations and to see what their repayment history has been in the past. Generally, we look to see that our applicants make an effort to pay their credit obligations on time. If we have concerns or questions about things on your credit report, we will contact you for more information.

No; HFLA of Northeast Ohio makes education loans based on financial need rather than merit.

Please complete our pre-application form for the type of loan you are seeking to receive (standard, education, business). Or, you may call the office to go over our pre-qualifications over the phone at 216-378-9042. After we receive the pre-application, we will be in touch with further instructions.

All supporting documents are listed on the first page of each application, and vary by loan type.

Yes, if you are approved for a loan, we will need to make a copy of your photo ID.

We hate to see people make unnecessary trips! If you qualify to apply, you can fax your application and supporting documents to us at 216-378-9007, scan it to team@interestfree.org, or mail it to us at 23300 Chagrin Blvd. Suite 204, Beachwood, OH 44122.

If you live or work close by, you may bring your application in, but please call us first at 216-378-9042 because we are a small office and want to be sure that someone is here to receive your paperwork.

How to Apply


Our education loans require one cosigner. Cosigners share a joint responsibility to the debt, and we can consider the cosigner’s income if the student does not have any. Cosigners may live in the same household as the applicant (ex: mom can cosign for a child; a spouse/partner—with income—can cosign for their spouse/partner).

Our standard loans require at least one guarantor or guarantors. Guarantors must live in a separate household and must have income and the ability to repay the debt, in the event that the applicant defaults on the loan.

We make business loans directly to the business. Any owner who owns 20% or more of that business will sign a personal guaranty and will still be responsible for that debt, even if the business ceases to exist.

HFLA of Northeast Ohio is a nonprofit organization. We do not charge interest or make money off of our loans, and we rely heavily on our loans being repaid so that we can make new loans to people in need.

Guarantors and cosigners are our one form of “backup” in the unlikely event that a borrower defaults on a loan. We have had several guarantors/cosigners who have paid off loans because the person that they guaranteed the loan for/cosigned the loan for fell ill, experienced extreme financial setbacks, or passed away. HFLA is grateful for our guarantors and cosigners, who have allowed us to exist for over 100 years.

No, your spouse/partner cannot guarantee your loan. Spouses must apply as co-applicants, though. Our loans require a guarantor that is completely separate from the financial situation, meaning they must reside in a separate household and have their own income.

Qualified guarantors are people living in Northeast Ohio, with a verifiable income and the ability to make a payment if the borrower could not do so, who live in a separate household from the loan applicant(s).

Get Reviewed

It typically takes 5-10 business days to process a complete application. However, this process may take longer if an application is turned in without complete information or supporting documentation. Due to the overwhelming need for support in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, application volume has increased dramatically and processing times have been extended to reflect that increase.

Business loan requests do require much more paperwork, and it does take us a bit longer to review these loan packets! We will do our best to keep you informed throughout the review process so that you know where you stand.

All final loan decisions are made by HFLA of Northeast Ohio’s loan committees. These decisions are based on your financials, but also off of you and your story. We want to meet our borrowers and understand their situations! We meet twice a month and require our applicants to come in for a brief (15-20 minute) interview. If you are far out of our service area or have difficulty with transportation, our programmatic staff will make alternate arrangements with you.


Please allow our staff a few days to get the paperwork ready for you and your cosigner/guarantor(s). We will contact you when the paperwork is ready, and determine the best way to get these documents executed (either in-person at our office, or remotely via a notary).

All checks are written to the source of the need, not to our borrowers. HFLA can mail checks to these places, or you may pick them up to hand-deliver, when appropriate.

Make Payments

While HFLA cannot currently pull funds from your account or paychecks, we do accept cash, checks, and money orders. Our loan management software also allows you to pay online via debit card, but there will be a “convenience fee” of the lesser of 2% (of the payment) or $5.

There are not! However, HFLA of Northeast Ohio encourages our borrowers to pay extra on accounts that may be charging you interest (ex: car loan, credit card) vs. our interest-free loans.

When your loan is paid off, you and your cosigner/guarantor(s) will receive a notification via mail. If you monitor your account online, you will also see the $0 balance reflected. You credit report will show our loan as paid and closed.

Pay it Forward

Of course you can! If you are moved by our mission and interested in helping other Northeast Ohioans, please click here.