Florida can now apply to $1 billion mortgage assistance program

Florida homeowners can now apply to a $1 billion mortgage assistance program under new eligibility guidelines created to allow more people to benefit from the federal plan.

The Florida Housing Finance Corp. approved a revamp of the Hardest Hit Fund in April and the Treasury Department signed off on the changes in May.

But before the new guidelines could go into effect, counselors from 90 agencies statewide who deal directly with homeowners and their Hardest Hit applications needed training in the standards, which increase the amount of money homeowners can receive while eliminating some eligibility roadblocks.

The corporation announced that the new rules were in place as of Thursday.

"We know that the public is anxious for these changes to take effect," said Florida Housing Finance Corp. communications director Cecka Green earlier this month.

Homeowners who previously applied for the Hardest Hit program, but were not eligible at that time, may request their application to be reconsidered by contacting the advising agency they initially worked with. They do not need to fill out a new application.

The Hardest Hit Fund is meant as a bridge for homeowners looking for work or higher-paying jobs. Those who are eligible can receive up to a year of mortgage assistance with a cap of $24,000, and up to $18,000 to bring a mortgage current on payments. Homeowners seeking only to have their mortgage arrearage paid can get up to $25,000.

The program was announced nationally in 2010 and began statewide in Florida in April 2011.

As of last month, 28,556 Floridians had completed applications for Hardest Hit money. Statewide, 5,747 homeowners have been approved.

Thousands of applications were ruled ineligible for reasons that don't exist under the new guidelines, such as the mortgage payment was more than 180 days past due or the loan was obtained after a cutoff date of Jan. 1, 2009.

For information and applications, visit flhardesthithelp.org or call (877) 863-5244.

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Two programs are available under the Hardest Hit program

• Unemployment Mortgage Assistance provides up to a year of loan payments with a cap of $24,000 and up to $18,000 that can be paid up-front to bring a delinquent loan current.

• Mortgage Loan Reinstatement Payment provides up to $25,000 as a one-time payment to bring a delinquent mortgage current.


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