Impact 5: Easier for hardest-hit to get help

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Doreen Brown just signed paperwork to ensure she can stay in her Plantation, Florida condo for at least 12 more months.

"It's a quiet condo, I love it, and I look forward to being able to stay there," Brown said.

She's one of thousands of homeowners benefiting from changes to the Florida Hardest Hit Fund. The program helps homeowners who are unemployed or underemployed.

Kevin Maher from Debthelper.com , an advisory agency for Florida Hardest Hit, says the program has $1 billion, but wasn't helping enough people.

"We weren't spending enough of the money that was given to us, so changes were made to reach more people," Maher said.

Here's what's changed:

Homeowners can get as much as $2,000 a month to help pay their mortgage for up to 12 months. The cut off used to be six months. The fund also provides up to $18,000 to reinstate a delinquent mortgage. The old limit was $6,000.

Those who exhausted their assistance could now be eligible for more.

"There is no reason you shouldn't  contact the agency that was helping you to see if it can try to get you back on the program if you still qualify," Maher said.

Eligibility requirements also changed.

Since the program was first rolled out in October 2010, 31,468 Florida homeowners applied, but 13,274 were deemed ineligible.  

For many, this is their second chance to have their application re-evaluated.

There are no longer rules limiting the loan to value ratio, and it no longer matters if you're more than 6-months behind on your mortgage.

For Brown, she finally got help because her condo no longer had to be on an approved HUD list.

"As soon as the terms changed, within three weeks or so I was approved for it," Brown said.

"Anyone who is unable to make any of their mortgage payment, or some of their mortgage payment and it's a result of unemployment or underemployment, look into it. It doesn't cost anything to look into the program. It doesn't cost anything to get a approved for the program," Maher said.

Those who receive assistance from the federal program don't have to pay it back as long as they stay in the home for 5 years.

Those still in the program will have their benefits automatically extended. Their advisor agency should be contacting them.  Those who were turned down before should not re-apply. Instead request that their advisor agency review their application again.

You can read more about how the program works, including eligibility requirements and an application form by clicking here . http://bit.ly/fjNV13

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