After nearly 5 months, the Pandemic Mortgage Assistance Program is still in its infancy.
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RALEIGH, N.C. — A federally funded program to help people struggling to pay mortgages during the pandemic is still in the starting blocks, but it may open soon.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury said it opened an online portal Friday allowing states that are expected to dole out nearly $10 billion across the country to submit plans for the project. Congress approved the funding in March as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, but it’s taken time for the government to write more detailed rules for how the money will flow to homeowners.
With final guidance coming down this week and the portal opening, it will be up to states to submit those plans, the Treasury Department said. The agency will have to approve the plans before states can make payments, and a spokeswoman couldn’t provide a timetable Friday beyond “expeditiously.”
She said state programs received 10 percent of their allocations in April to get things started.
A North Carolina official confirmed that Treasury reached out to say the portal was open and said a plan would be submitted.
“Treasury will soon make available a portal through which HAF participants may submit their plans,” the site said in bold print. “The deadline for states and territories to either submit HAF plans or notify Treasury the date by which their HAF plan will be submitted will be 14 days from the date the portal becomes available.”
The Treasury spokeswoman said that would be updated.
The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency will oversee the program in this state. On Thursday, a spokeswoman told WRAL News the agency was waiting for the portal and that an open date hadn’t been announced.
“We are using this time to secure a vendor for program management, build the necessary infrastructure, educate potential local partners and develop a marketing and outreach plan so we can alert struggling homeowners across the state as soon as our application portal opens,” spokeswoman Madison Lewis said in an email.
North Carolina’s portion totals about $273 million, and once it starts flowing, 60 percent will be earmarked for people who make the median income or less for their area. The rest will go to people making up to 150 percent of that median income
State and local governments have a separate program to help renters, and officials say they’ve had trouble getting the word out to gin up enough applicants, even though advocates fear an eviction crisis once the current federal moratorium on evictions ends.
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Lewis said that, until the program opens for applications, homeowners struggling should contact the State Home Foreclosure Prevention Project, which offers free counseling and can work with servicers on a homeowners behalf.
The number to find a counselor in your area is 1-888-442-8188.
Some local governments may have smaller programs to help homeowners. A spokeswoman for Buncombe County, for example, said the county kicked off a program Friday offering homeowners one-time, $300 grants if they meet income thresholds.