This week Florida closed its three largest Hardest Hit federal housing-aid programs, years early- leaving $88 million unspent. This closes three opportunities for struggling homeowners, which includes: mortgage help for the unemployed and underemployed, aid on delinquent home loans and mortgage principal reduction.
Florida’s Hardest Hit program helped only about half the number of the approximately 100,000 Floridians who applied since it launched in 2010. The program was troubled from the start, with “technical issues” such as rolling out with crashed computers and an eight-month delay to get approved.
Compared with 17 other states that were part of the program, Florida had the lowest admission rate, even though Florida had one of the most severe home-price corrections in the nation, according to a 2015 federal report. The delayed disbursement of money from the program has not gone unnoticed and has drawn criticism.
“It’s criminal,” said one Florida resident, who tried unsuccessfully to apply for the funds. “I had all my ducks in a row but could not get through on the phone. I ended up standing in their lines, but there was no follow-up. It was a complete waste of time.”
Another Florida applicant said, “They put me through the ringer. They were so rude, so ugly. I tried so many times. I got turned down so many times. It was just totally ridiculous.”
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, said the money approved during the Obama administration could have been deployed quickly to help speed up Florida’s recovery from the crash and save families from foreclosure.
“Unfortunately, Governor Scott and Republican legislators dragged their feet for years in getting the FHFC [Florida Housing Finance Corporation] to deploy significant funds and various assistance programs, undermining the effort and stifling its effectiveness,” Soto said. Though the state has moved toward recovery, it remains one of the few yet to rebound fully, according to data from the National Association of Realtors.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, has consistently called for investigations into Florida’s oversight of the federal spending program.
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