More than ten million homeowners across the country are drowning in financial turmoil due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, as they are unable to make mortgage payments on time and are experiencing “housing insecurity,” according to census data.
The White House allocated $10 billion to provide a financial ledge to homeowners struggling through the crisis, but experts have warned that they may not see the relief until next year.
President Joe Biden signed off on the federal aid through his $1.9 trillion rescue package passed in March—the same law that sent eligible Americans $1,400 stimulus payments and unemployed workers $300 weekly benefits—that set aside $10 billion for homeowners to help with housing-related payments like mortgage, taxes, utilities, insurance and homeowners association dues.
“It’s the first time Congress has included mortgage assistance in pandemic relief," Bob Broeksmit, president and chief executive officer of the Mortgage Bankers Association, said. “In the wake of that victory, we are now working with members and state agencies to establish dedicated funds that offer additional solutions as customers exit forbearance.”
But it may not be until 2022 that U.S. homeowners see the additional assistance, according to Russell Graves, the executive director of the National Foundation for Debt Management.
“There are so many other things going through these agencies: rental assistance, different kinds of pandemic assistance,” Graves told Yahoo! Finance. “Frankly, we have never put so much money toward housing in history. The numbers are staggering.”
The housing relief will be pumped into states based on a formula that considers the number of unemployed residents in the state, along with records on late mortgage payments and foreclosures, the National Council of State Housing Agencies reported.
Eligible recipients for the relief must be homeowners and hold a “principal balance at or below the conforming loan limits set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” the government-sponsored mortgage companies that oversee home loans, according to Yahoo. The loan limit for 2021 for most of the U.S. is $548,250.
State housing agencies will send the money to homeowners, but the majority of the aid must be funneled to borrowers who earn less than the local median income or the national median income.
In the meantime, experts suggested that homeowners reach out to lenders about their forbearance options.
Homeowners using the government’s mortgage forbearance program have been able to pause payments for up to 18 months.
“As that window closes, we want families to have the support and flexibility they need to stay in their homes and succeed long-term,” Broeksmit said last month at a conference.
Forbearance allows homeowners to postpone mortgage payments without getting late fees and other related consequences for not paying on time.
Nearly 70 percent of the mortgage population have been able to apply for forbearance since the onset of the pandemic. The 30 percent remaining don’t have federally held housing loans, but experts, including Graves, recommended that these homeowners reach out to a housing counseling agency approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development since the Biden administration passed $100 million for homeowners affiliated with those agencies.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.