Help is on the way for troubled, 'hardest hit' homeowners in Florida

TAMPA - The one billion dollar program that helps struggling homeowners pay their mortgages is getting an overhaul.  Rules are being eased in order for more Floridians to qualify.

Debbie Bellfy, let go after 13 years on the job, was out of money and headed for foreclosure when she applied for Florida's Hardest Hit program.  "They said, 'We will help you,' and I said, 'Oh my.'  I was thrilled."

But less than 6000 people have qualified for the program since it rolled out in Florida last year.

The Tampa Bay CDC, a HUD approved housing counseling agency says Florida housing officials are easing eligibility requirements so more people like Debbie will be able to hang on to their homes.

The Federally funded program provides two types of help.  Monthly mortgage payment assistance for people like Debbie who lost their jobs, and lump sum financial assistance to help borrowers who are in arrears.

The US Treasury Department has to sign off on the new rules.  The changes would include helping homeowners who are more than 180 days behind on their mortgages.  Mortgage payment assistance will double to a maximum of 12 months or $24,000, and lump sum assistance to pay overdue balances will increase from $6,000 to $25,000.

For more information and how to apply, visit .

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