MetLife Grant Fuels Help for Reverse Mortgage Disaster Recovery

Project Porchlight, an initiative of non-profit counseling organization Money Management International (MMI), has announced its public launch along with the disclosure of its primary financing partner: the MetLife Foundation.

While previously available only through the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA, or “Fannie Mae”) Disaster Response Network, a grant from MetLife Foundation has enabled MMI to increase the scope of accessibility for the project to those financially impacted by a natural disaster in the United States and its territories, including reverse mortgage borrowers.

“The aftermath of natural disasters disrupts lives and disproportionately complicates recovery for financially at-risk individuals,” said Sarah Willis, Director of Financial Health at MetLife Foundation in a press release announcing the grant. “With the expansion of Project Porchlight, MMI is creating a space where individuals from low- to moderate-income households can build resilience, helping to preserve the possibility for long-term financial health in the face of inevitable disasters.”

How MetLife expands Porchlight’s scope to more eligible reverse mortgage borrowers

The MetLife name will help the project expand its reach considerably, according to Jackie Boies, senior director of housing and bankruptcy services at MMI.

“The MetLife Foundation believes that financial health belongs to everyone. Through its strategic partnerships with like-minded non-profit organizations, like MMI, the MetLife Foundation has reached 9.9 million low-income individuals world-wide,” Boies tells RMD in an email. “MMI’s partnership with the MetLife Foundation allows us to broaden the accessibility of Project Porchlight to a larger number of individuals, in a greater geographical area, who are financially impacted by a natural disaster.”

The MetLife name also brings with it an additional layer of credibility to the efforts of the project particularly for those unfamiliar with it, according to Boies.

“MMI’s partnership with the MetLife Foundation demonstrates the credibility of the Project Porchlight program, which allows us to connect to new business partners and expand our donor base,” she says.

The new funding made available by MetLife will play a critical role in allowing the initiative to be expanded to additional coverage areas, and for borrowers that have endured natural disasters who may have their mortgage loans from a wide variety of lenders, Boies adds.

“The financial support awarded by the MetLife Foundation allows Project Porchlight to be activated after major, natural disasters to support the financial recovery of individuals in the impacted community, regardless of their mortgage lender or homeownership status,” she says.

The additional funding also helps expand the project’s reach to a wider swath of reverse mortgage borrowers specifically, opening up the pool of potential recipients to those with loans backed by more than just FNMA.

“Porchlight was already available to reverse borrowers with loans backed by Fannie Mae, through their Disaster Response Network, but now it is available to reverse borrowers with any servicer or investor,” she says. “Our team is ready to work with reverse mortgage seniors, who have been impacted by disaster and is equipped to assist with the unique perspective a reverse mortgage brings to the disaster recovery process.”

Connections with the reverse mortgage industry, Tropical Storm Imelda response

While so far the outreach informing the reverse mortgage industry about Porchlight’s benefits has been limited to more direct interactions with industry contacts, Boies says that the overall reception has been positive, and should lead to more positive impacts in the lives of disaster-affected seniors.

“To date our outreach in the reverse mortgage industry has been limited to RMD and a few direct contacts with industry professionals,” Boies says. “The reception has been incredibly positive.  Reverse mortgage professionals welcome the free support a reverse mortgage client, impacted by disaster, will receive. By working with a Project Porchlight counselor to help guide them through the recovery process, seniors will be better equipped to avoid the disaster recovery pitfalls many fall into.”

Project Porchlight is available immediately upon local, state, or national declarations of emergency. For reverse mortgage borrowers affected by the recent onslaught of Tropical Storm Imelda in the state of Texas, MMI is standing ready to assist any affected reverse mortgage borrowers, waiting for an official disaster declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“News reports indicate that FEMA is still assessing and has reached the impact threshold required to trigger a declaration, which we expect next week,” Boies says. “That being said, MMI has made the decision to activate Project Porchlight, in the affected areas. Beginning Monday, October 7th, we will begin conducting outreach to existing and former clients and an online advertising campaign. This outreach will include 360 clients who have received reverse mortgage services from MMI within the past two years and reside in the impacted areas.”

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