Some Hamilton County homeowners are now eligible for mortgage and utility help
Millions of dollars in mortgage and utility relief is now available for homeowners in Hamilton County. County officials are using $5 million in federal stimulus for the program.
"We've helped small businesses, we've helped nonprofits, we've helped renters, childcare centers, communities, but the county has not had a program for homeowners like this until now," said Commission Vice President Alicia Reece.
Households making 80% or less of the area median income are eligible for mortgage and utility assistance, as long as the pandemic caused some loss in income. The income ceilings to be eligible for help are:
- 1-person household: $47,850
- 2-person household: $54,650
- 3-person household: $61,500
- 4-person household: $68,300
- 5-person household: $73,800
- 6-person household: $79,250
Each household can get up to $25,000 for up to six months in past-due mortgage payments and up to 12 months in past-due utility payments, dating back to March 1, 2020. Payments will go directly to the mortgage servicer or utility.
"One approval we did late last night was $7,000," said Kevin Holt, interim assistant director for Job and Family Services. "It was an applicant who needed mortgage, [electric] and water covered. We were able to cover that and clean that slate and set that family up for success moving forward."
Holt says they're expecting high demand for the new program, which could exacerbate delays in the existing rental assistance process. Reece says the county is hiring new positions to help with all the aid programs.
"The board certainly has recognized that we've got to have enough people to be able to process these things," Reece said. "And we just posted [the jobs] so people could go there and apply, and JFS is training people as we speak. So we can have more people and not burn out the people that are there."
Holt says wait times for rent assistance have improved, but he'd like to shorten it even more.
"We're moving staff every day to get there," he said. "Mortgage is going to create some of the same challenges. But right now we're issuing about half million dollars per week in rental assistance."
Commission President Stephanie Summerow Dumas says homeowner assistance is a priority for the entire board.
"The longer we wait, the more people will be in need," she said. "So the numbers are fluid, and that's why there was an urgency to move forward as quickly as possible."