Are You Hardest Hit? If You Suffered During This Economic Crisis, You May Be Eligible for Money

At the end of May, the U.S. Treasury Department approved the changes to a statewide mortgage prevention program sought by the Florida Housing Finance Corp. ("FHFC"). These changes help homeowners by increasing the number of homeowners helped by the program and the amount of funds available to them.

Dubbed the Hardest Hit Fund, this FHFC program is designed to help unemployed or underemployed homeowners hang on to their homes until they find new employment or otherwise improve their income situation.

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Under this program, qualified homeowners could receive up to $12,000 over six months to keep up with mortgage payments and up to $6,000 to pay the past due balance on their loan sent directly to their lenders. However, as a result of the highly restrictive requirements placed on the program last year, few homeowners who have applied could qualify for the program, and only a fraction of the $1 billion allotted to Florida by the Treasury Department has actually been provided to help troubled homeowners.

The new parameters now allow all borrowers who are unemployed or under employed through no fault of their own to apply for Hardest Hit Help. Nevertheless, the mortgage servicer remains the one to determine whether loans that are more than six months past due should qualify for the program.

Other requirements dictate that applicants must be a Florida resident seeking help on their primary residence and having a remaining balance that is less than $400,000.

Real estate and foreclosure attorneys in South Florida agree that until now little seems to be really helping outside of fully pre-qualifying homeowners for the government's Making Home Affordable Modification before any documentation is actually sent to a lender. With the expanded guideline, this program might be a way to help more of the folks trying to keep their homestead away from their bank.

If homeowners qualify, they will now be eligible for more assistance than the original program. As part of the changes, those eligible for the program can receive a maximum of $24,000 over 12 months for help with mortgage payments, or up to $25,000 to bring their balance current.

FHFC staff will begin implementing the new parameters later this month. Applicants who were originally denied but would qualify under the new requirements can also contact to their advisor and have their case reopened.

FHFC board members decided to seek the changes to the size and scope of the Hardest Hit Fund after finding that only a small portion of the applications were deemed eligible for assistance. As of May 1, the latest data available, the FHFC has reviewed slightly less than 75 percent of the 28,556 completed applications they have received. Of those, more than 62 percent were denied admittance to the program.

Do not wait. For further information on The Florida Hardest Hit Program, you should contact your lender or a qualified legal representation from a qualified real estate attorney.

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