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Friday, October 18, 2019

How many times have you asked yourself why the government can bail out GM and the banks but not have any programs for the middle class? It seems that while the government provides for the “Too Big to Fail,” there is nothing for the everyday Joe who is facing hard times while trying to stay current on his bills and save his home.

This $48,000 grant is certainly not something you will be eligible for? Or is it?

The fact is there are many programs funded by the Federal, State and local governments that help people facing hardships…and the definition of hardship can be very broad. Many of these programs can be obtained by the various agencies or banks that administer these programs, though that can often be a complicated process.

The Urban League of Bergen County, located at 40 Van Brunt Street in Englewood, was founded in 1918 with the mission to “empower the community with a main focus on the economically challenged,” stated Director Veronica Frazier. The organization offers the services of HUD certified counselors at no cost. If you have tried to modify your mortgage with your bank, or applied for a county grant, you know how frustrating the process can be. The Urban League will guide you through the process at no cost to you because they are paid by the agency administering the various programs. They have the experience you likely do not posses and they have a rolodex of people at state agencies who will take their calls and respond to their inquiries.

“There are always different programs that come and go,” added Frazier. “Though one may expire before you apply, there may be another that will suit your needs.”

Below is a list of several programs now in effect:

The program hinted at above, the NJ Homekeeper Program, began two years ago and is about to expire. Remaining funds will be distributed on a first-come first-served basis, though at this point there cannot be any guarantee of available funds to new applicants. The program provides for a $48,000 interest free loan for homeowners who have been unemployed or experienced a drop in income in the last 36 months. (You do not need to be unemployed currently, just in the last 36 months at some point.) The loan will be forgiven if you remain in the home for ten more years. The Urban League has helped distribute over $5 million under this program.

UP (Unemployment Program). This program provides various benefits to individuals who have been unemployed in the last 36 months.

Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).This program is subsidized by the government and encourages banks to modify the terms on existing mortgages to as low as 2%. Many homeowners have experienced extreme frustration trying to secure these modifications. Working with an attorney will improve your chances of success but could cost thousands of dollars. A HUD counselor is free.

First Time Homebuyer. There are various programs intended for both first-time homebuyers as well as other buyers. The programs typically limit eligibility based on income or designation of the property in a low or moderate income census tract. The benefits include closing cost assistance low down payments and down payment assistance up to $90,000

Government Programs are available for those who seek them. HUD counselors are available to offer advice on these programs. Citibank in Englewood is sponsoring an evening discussing some of these programs for both new homebuyers and existing homeowners on Thursday, July 18th at 6:00 pm.

You can continue to complain about the government, or you can empower yourself and contact the Urban League to learn about the many programs that may help you. For more information on the seminar or other programs contact Frazier at vfrazier_ulbcnj.org or call 201-568-4988.