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Mortgage assistance program has openings

A local program is available to help with mortgage payments while unemployed are looking for work
The response to a new mortgage assistance program for the tri-county area has the local housing center of NeighborImpact baffled.
   The new program is administered by Oregon Housing and Community Services, and can provide up to one year in mortgage assistance or $20,000, (whichever comes first to approved homeowners). The applicants must be receiving unemployment insurance, and the program is designed to help them avoid foreclosure while they seek work.
   The thing that is confusing is how few Crook County residents have applied for the available slots in the program, despite the fact that the unemployment rate for Crook County was still 13.5 in May.
   Carolyn Eagan, Oregon Employment Department regional economist, said that the number of people in Crook County who qualify for unemployment insurance has dropped off recently. She didn’t know if this impacts the amount of people who were signing up for the program.
   “It seems there is more than one factor,” commented Eagan.
   Selef Spragg, Housing Center Manager at NeighborImpact, also wasn’t sure of the reason for the low turnout.
   The program can be applied for online, during two-week application cycles. According to Spragg, the average number of applications in a cycle from Crook County has been 10 or less.
   Spragg said that the mortgage assistance program will allow people who are unemployed to focus on getting a job without the added anxiety of making a monthly mortgage payment.
   “It’s a great program for those who are on unemployment right now,” said Spragg.
   Possible candidates must be receiving Unemployment Insurance to help them avoid foreclosure while they seek work. He said that the program would help pay their mortgage payment while they remain in the principle residence.
   Spragg said that if potential applicants are working part-time and receiving some unemployment compensation, he encouraged them to call their office.
   “I always encourage people to give us a call just to be sure to see if that is something that can work,” said Spragg.
   In January, 2011, the first mortgage assistance program for the Hardest Hit Dollars was set up through Oregon Housing and Community Services. NeighborImpact was the administrator of the funds, and there were approximately 288 slots in Crook County.
   “We had about 70 or 80 households who were able to get into the program,” Spragg said of the prior program.
   The window to apply for the program was one month, and the application process was grueling. Spragg said they have streamlined the process for the new program.
   “It’s not like it was before where they had to send all this complicated and convoluted documents that seemed to be all mixed together,” he clarified. “Now it’s fairly simple.”
   He said that applicants apply online to the housing center for NeighborImpact. From there, the paperwork is submitted by NeighborImpact on their behalf.
    “It’s supposed to be more streamlined, and unfortunately the state couldn’t meet every person’s situation and circumstances, so that is why there is still some guidelines they have to do statewide. It is somewhat more streamlined and hopefully can still help out a lot of folks who are in need — especially in our more rural counties.”
   He added that the deadline for signing up will be the end of July.
   Right now, there are an overwhelming amount of slots in Crook County.”
   The first round of the state’s mortgage assistance program has provided more than $40 million in benefits to more than 4,000 Oregon homeowners.
   For questions, call NeighborImpact at 541-318-7506 Ext. 308
   For applications, go to: www.oregonhomeownerhelp.org.