Florida’s key foreclosure prevention program is facing a federal investigation after Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) raised concerns about who is receiving the money and how little of the $1 billion award has reached homeowners.
The special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program confirmed in a letter Thursday that she shares Nelson’s “desire to bring more transparency to the program” and will initiate an audit.
Dubbed the Hardest Hit Program, the plan has been notoriously slow in giving out awards to needy homeowners and has been criticized in past federal reviews for having so few homeowners receiving money.
The most recent numbers as of March 1 show $230 million, or 23 percent of the total allocation, had been spent or encumbered.
“I would ask that your office look thoroughly into Florida’s management of the homeowner-help program as part of the current broader audit of the entire multi-state program,” Nelson wrote.
The Florida Housing Finance Corporation administers the Hardest Hit program. As of March 1, it said 9,052 homeowners have been approved for money, out of 44,854 that have applied. There are 11,953 applications currently in the review process.
The program was announced in February 2010, but Florida was one of the last states to implement its plan, opening it statewide in April 2011.
A year ago, the inspector general criticized Florida for “significant delays” in implementing the program. The inspector general still had concerns six months later, which were outlined in an October report.
“One thing we were trying to say in April is this program is just not getting out to people and the money was just sitting there and the money is still sitting there,” said Special Inspector General Christy Romero following an October report that expressed similar concerns about delays.
Homeowners eligible for Florida’s plan can receive up to a year of mortgage assistance with a cap of $24,000, and up to $18,000 to bring a mortgage current on payments.
Hardest Hit applications are available online at flhardesthithelp.org or by calling (877) 863-5244.