Senator claims HUD help for unemployed has not reached homeowners
[Update 1: Adds comment from HUD] Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) sent a letter to Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, urging him and the agency to disburse funds allocated to help unemployed homeowners avoid foreclosure. As it stands, Casey claims $100 million in promised funding is now more than three months overdue. When the Dodd-Frank Act was passed last summer, it created a $1 billion Emergency Homeowners Loan Program designed to provide mortgage funding to homeowners experiencing temporary loss of income. Under the program, qualified homeowners will be able to borrow up to $50,000 to assist them with their mortgage payments, provided that they have a reasonable prospect of resuming mortgage payments within 24 months. The program was supposed to be fully implemented by Oct. 1. Casey said he was excited about the more than $100 million promised to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency by HUD. However, according to the senator, his state has yet to receive the funds. "Unfortunately, the promised funds have still not reached those families who are struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments at the same time they are struggling to find work," Casey wrote in his letter to Donovan. Conditions became so strenuous that on Dec. 23, Philadelphia's highest court issued a 30-day moratorium on sheriff's sales following an emergency petition from the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, a local organization. "Local officials also supported the temporary delay, largely in anticipation of the infusion of federal funds that is expected through the EHLP," Casey wrote. He added that the PHFA is ready to efficiently distribute the funds to unemployed homeowners of the state, as the program is modeled after the Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program. PHFA has administered that program since 1983. "I respectfully request that the department immediately release EHLP funds so that similar legal action will not be necessary to protect homeowners and their families," Casey said. "The department’s sense of urgency should match that of local communities, demonstrated by the broad coalition that fought for this moratorium in Philadelphia." HUD said it anticipates homeowners will be able to apply for EHLP in the first quarter of 2011. "Unfortunately this time table is slower than we initially expected, reflecting implementation challenges for this new and unique program," HUD said in a statement issued late Friday. "We are committed to ensuring this program is as fair and effective as possible and we will take necessary time to do that." Write to Christine Ricciardi. Follow her on Twitter @HWnewbieCR.