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Indiana foreclosure prevention program expanding

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About 10,000 more Indiana homeowners could get help in making their mortgage payments under an expansion of a federally funded foreclosure prevention program, state officials announced Wednesday.

Changes to the Indiana's Hardest Hit Fund program include broader eligibility and nearly doubling the amount of mortgage aid each household could receive. The program first started in 2011 with $221 million in federal funding.

"Our goal is to ensure that every Indiana homeowner who qualifies for assistance has that opportunity to get help," Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann said.

Some 1,500 Indiana households have received up to $18,000 in assistance since the program was started, said Mark Neyland of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, which oversees the fund.

Only those who were unemployed have been eligible for the program — and officials are looking for a big jump in applications by broadening eligibility. Those newly eligible include those who can't afford their house payments for reasons such being forced into a lower-paying job, the loss of income from a family member's death, large medical expenses and being called to military service.

Household can receive up to $30,000 in assistance over a two-year period, with those in the program having to complete a financial literacy course.

State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said that more education on handling money was an important part of the program to make sure that those who've gotten help to stay in their homes don't fall back into the same situation.

Northwestern Indiana's Lake County, which includes Gary, has long been troubled by a double-digit unemployment rate, and Rogers said expanded mortgage aid will give residents "a ray of hope in what is very often a dim surrounding."

Indiana is among 18 states and the District of Columbia sharing about $3 billion in federal grants announced in 2010 to help homeowners facing foreclosure in the country's toughest job markets.

Indiana had nearly 4,000 new foreclosure filings in March, about the same as a year earlier, according to the foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc.

Details on the program are available here.

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