Residents in Alabama can now receive federal funds to prevent foreclosure through a new statewide program called Hardest Hit Alabama. Gov. Robert Bentley said the program will be used to allocate $162 million set aside by the federal administration one year ago to help unemployed homeowners in Alabama stay current on their mortgage. The U.S. Treasury Department's Hardest Hit Fund was established to provide targeted aid to families in states hit hardest by the economic and housing downturns. States were chosen either because they are struggling with unemployment rates at or above the national average or steep home price declines greater than 20% since the housing market crash. Alabama's current unemployment rate sits at 8.9%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the time the funds were allocated by the federal government, the unemployment rate was 10.8%. The Alabama Housing Finance Authority said as of June 2010, 46 of the state's 67 counties had double-digit unemployment rates. Foreclosure prevention funds are distributed by the state housing finance agency, which in this case is the AHFA. The Hardest Hit Alabama fund will supply eligible homeowners with up to 12 monthly mortgage payments, or up to $15,000 per household, depending on which limit is reached first. To qualify, applicants must have a total annual household income less than $75,740 and the unpaid principal balance on their home's mortgages must be less than $258,690. Write to Christine Ricciardi. Follow her on Twitter @HWnewbieCR.