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Florida lags behind in distributing anti-foreclosure funds

For years, the federal government has been supplying funds to states to pass along to homeowners in danger of foreclosure. But critics charge that Florida officials have been inefficient in getting residents the help they need with their mortgages.

In the latest example, the Orlando Sentinel recently reported that Florida declined to apply for the latest round of federal foreclosure relief funding. The state could have received $250 million to pass along to struggling homeowners -- and officials will not say why they passed up so much money.

Indeed, a spokeswoman for Florida Housing Finance Corporation, which distributes foreclosure relief money for the state, apparently refused to discuss the matter. She did mention $78 million the state has received from the “Hardest Hit Funds,” another federal anti-foreclosure program.

But Florida seems reluctant even to use the Hardest Hit Funds to rescue as many homeowners as it can. The Sentinel notes that the state is slated to receive more than $1 billion through 2020, but has distributed just 60 percent of the funds it has gotten since 2010. Nationwide, the overall distribution rate in that time is 70 percent.

Indeed, relatively few Florida homeowners have gotten this relief. Last year, an investigation by a special inspector general criticized Florida’s handling of the Hardest Hit Funds program. The state has the lowest rate of homeowners admitted into the Hardest Hit Funds program in the nation, along with one of the highest rates of homeowners giving up and withdrawing their applications, the report found.

In response, Florida eased its qualification requirements. It has also been making more of an effort to publicize the program. Still, with so many homeowners in the state still in or facing foreclosure, the decision not to pursue as much federal funding as possible to help is curious.

Financial relief can help, at least for a while. But if you are already in foreclosure, or looking for a permanent solution, an attorney’s knowledge and skill can make a big difference.

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