A state program created to help Indiana residents avoid foreclosure by providing them with 10-year loans is seeing few takers even though the state's foreclosure rate is among the highest in the nation.
The Hardest Hit Fund has enough money to help more than 13,000 Hoosier households, but only 651 homeowners had applied for help by the end of 2011, according to the Evansville Courier & Press. Of those applications, about 220 have been approved and another 300 are pending.
The Hardest Hit Fund provides eligible homeowners with forgivable 10-year loans through a grant from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Each loan is forgiven 20 percent per year over its last five years. Depending on how economically hard hit a county is, homeowners can receive up to $12,000 or $18,000.
The idea behind the loan program is to help unemployed homeowners make payments or recently unemployed homeowners catch up on delinquent payments after they get a new job so they can avoid foreclosing on their home.
Indiana has seen its foreclosure rate climb to seventh in America. And a lack of awareness of what help is available has contributed to that rate, said Emily Duncan, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.
"There has to be a willingness to seek that assistance and ask for help," Duncan said.
Putnam County resident Bonnie Love got a boost from the Hardest Hit Fund in December after nearly losing her house when she lost a factory job in Brazil and her unemployment insurance payments ran out.
She was able to catch up when Congress extended unemployment benefits. Love then found three part-time jobs, but it wasn't enough and she eventually fell behind on her bills again.
When she saw advertisements for foreclosure-prevention counseling sponsored by the Community Action Program of Evansville, or CAPE, she took action and the agency helped her apply for a loan from the Hardest Hit Fund.
"I was able to catch up all my back payments and stay current," Love said.
Program applicants have to agree to pay a portion of their monthly income toward their mortgage, meet income eligibility requirements based on their county of residence. They must also be receiving unemployment insurance, according to the Indiana Foreclosure Prevention Network.
Once counselors from network are able to document a homeowner's loss of income, they can help negotiate interest rate reductions, changes in terms, waiving of late fees and sometimes even a suspension of payments.