Rep. Goff-Marcil: DeSantis Must Prioritize Federal Aid to Help Homeowners
Florida was one of the last states to submit an application for the funds provided to each State by the American Rescue Plan, delaying the HAF program for a number of months. The Homeowner Assistance Fund was established under Section 3206 of the American Rescue Plan Act to help homeowners avoid mortgage delinquencies, defaults, foreclosures, and displacement, as well as loss of utilities, home energy services, and insurance, as a result of the COVID 19 epidemic.
So, thousands of Florida homeowners could have benefited from this aid but have yet to receive it. Why? Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed the Department of Economic Opportunity to run the program, but it is failing miserably. Despite the fact that the program is theoretically active, many homeowners are unaware of its existence. The DEO is the same agency that failed badly to manage an increase in unemployment applications in 2020, leaving many unemployed Floridians in financial straits.
“DeSantis must do everything he can to make sure this desperately needed relief gets out to eligible homeowners. There will be no excuse if the same administration which failed unemployed Floridians during the height of the pandemic now fails struggling homeowners facing foreclosure. If DeSantis can figure out how to send out more than $600 million in corporate welfare in a timely manner, then he should be able to figure out how to distribute the same amount in federal aid to real people in this state who actually need help.” according to Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil, a Democrat serving the 30th District in the Florida House since 2018.
And the figures don’t lie: the initiative has received over 24,000 applications so far, but just 386 families have received support. Those who are waiting don’t know if they’ll get help in time to save their homes. DEO has distributed less than 1% of the available monies to needy households as of now.
“It is through the profound efforts of committed DEO staff and vendors working tirelessly with mortgage lenders and service providers that assistance is being awarded at an accelerated rate to Florida’s vulnerable homeowners,” said DEO Secretary Dane Eagle. “We can’t do this alone, and this partnership with vendors, lenders, and servicers play an important role in keeping Floridians in their homes. We continue to urge lenders and services to delay foreclosure proceedings and service disruptions for homeowners who have applied for assistance through Florida’s HAF program.”
To be eligible, homeowners must meet the following criteria:
- A qualified financial hardship must have happened on or after January 21, 2020, though it may have begun sooner.
- They own and live in the house as their primary residence.
- Meet the minimum income requirements.
- Fill out a “hardship affidavit/attestation, application, terms of service, consent papers, and any other documentation requested by DEO” and sign it.
- Provide proof, including self-certification or attestation of income and, if appropriate, Socially Disadvantaged Individual status, within DEO timelines.
- Separate applications for program support are not permitted for co-owners.
- Incomes must be less than or equal to 150 percent of the area’s median income or 100 percent of the national median income, whichever is greater. (However, according to DEO, at least 70% of the money will go to homeowners whose incomes are less than or equal to 100% of the median income in their area or the national median income, whichever is higher.)