Funds available for pandemic-related homeowner assistance

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Homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments and other expenses during the pandemic can now apply for help through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity website.

The state is urging financially challenged homeowners to apply for available assistance with overdue mortgage and utility payments, property insurance, overdue property taxes, homeowners association fees, case management and other housing costs.

Eligible households can receive up to $50,000, but in most cases payments will be made directly to the mortgage agent, insurance company or utility the homeowner owes.

Requests are accepted at www.FLHomeownerAssistance.org. To be eligible, applicants must document that they experienced pandemic-related financial hardship after January 1, 2020. There is no deadline, which means financial hardship could have started well after January 2020. or continue.

Florida received $676 million under a $9.9 billion COVID-19 relief package approved nearly a year ago by Congress and President Biden. The department has pledged to distribute at least $575 million after allocating 15% to authorized administrative expenses. More than $1 million has been provided to 137 applicants under a pilot program launched in November, the ministry said in a press release.

Online registration is only the first step towards approval. If program social workers determine that an applicant is likely eligible, the applicant will be asked to provide documentation of financial hardship, along with the amount they owe.

Homeowners eligible for mortgage relief include those who entered forbearance. This means they stopped making payments after the federal government issued an emergency order requiring mortgage officers of federally guaranteed loans – about 70% of all home mortgages – allow them to do so.

In Florida, homeowners entered forbearance at rates far exceeding the national average. In June 2020, South Florida abstention rates peaked at 18.9% in Broward County, 22.1% in Miami-Dade County, and 15.3% in Palm Beach County . In Central Florida, rates peaked at 20% in Osceola County, 15.1% in Orange County, 10.1% in Seminole County and 11.5% in Lake.

Federally guaranteed loans include those guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Veterans Administration, Federal Housing Administration, Department of Agriculture, or Department of Housing and Urban Development. The emergency ordinance provides consumers with a number of repayment options with these loans, including deferral of unpaid months at the end of the loan.

But homeowners whose mortgages are not federally guaranteed were not eligible for forbearance under the emergency order. While some lenders allowed their borrowers to skip mortgage payments, they were not required to carry over unpaid months when the loans ended and some lenders required borrowers to pay off their debts in a lump sum to keep their loans going. rule.

Here are some eligibility facts

To be eligible to receive funds, owners must:

• Own a residence of one to four units which is their main residence

• Having experienced financial hardship after January 21, 2020 (including hardship that began before that date but continued after that date)

• Have incomes less than or equal to 150% of the region’s median income or 100% of the US median income, whichever is greater

• Funding will be prioritized to ensure relief is provided to the most vulnerable homeowners first (targeting incomes of 100% or less of the region’s median income)

What expenses can be covered:

• Assistance with mortgage payment

• Financial assistance to reinstate a mortgage or pay other housing costs

• Assistance with owner’s utilities, internet service, property insurance, etc.

• Overdue property taxes

Home repairs necessary to ensure the property remains habitable

• Counseling and case management services through a HUD-certified counseling agency

Homeowners eligible for mortgage relief include those who entered forbearance.

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