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Help for USVI Homeowners
Christensen: Federal Programs In Place Can Help Homeowners
Affected by Virgin Islands Financial Crisis
(Washington, DC – March 2, 2012) – Delegate to Congress Donna M. Christensen said today that several federal programs designed to address the foreclosure crisis in the United States can be accessed by Virgin Islands homeowners who are in distress due to current or pending lay-offs. “Several homeowners have called or emailed my office asking about federal programs that can assist them as they will be out of income and unable to maintain their mortgages,” Congresswoman Christensen said. “There are programs in the Departments of Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture (Rural Development) and the Small Business Administration that can be helpful,” she said.
Congresswoman Christensen said that those that can be of immediate help include from the Treasury Department:
• Making Home Affordable - Unemployment Program (UP), where mortgage payments are reduced to 31% of income or suspended altogether for 12 months.
• Making Home Affordable – Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), where permanent modifications to your mortgage can be worked out.
• Making Home Affordable – Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA), where short sales and deed in lieu of foreclosure options can be worked out.
Congresswoman Christensen said that the Hardest Hit Fund, which many homeowners have asked about, is not available to the Virgin Islands because it was created specifically for 18 states and Washington, D.C. and the Dodd-Frank law prohibits its expansion to other jurisdictions.
Homeowners are asked to call the HOPE Hotline 1-888-995-HOPE (4673) where mortgage experts will be available around the clock to assist. They can also go online at www.MakingHomeAffordable.gov. Homeowners should have to following information available and ready before calling the Hotline:
• Full Name
• Phone Number and Email Address (if available)
• Property Address
• Servicer Name
• Loan Number
If the homeowner has a Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Loan, they can work with a Disaster Loan Official to:
• Reduce their monthly payment by stretching it out or
• Put a temporary hold on payments
There will however be no loan forgiveness. They can contact the Disaster Loan Assistance Customer Service at 1-800-659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@SBA.gov. They can also contact the Virgin Islands SBA Office at (340) 718-5381 on St. Croix.
If the homeowner has an FHA loan through the Housing and Urban Development (HUD), they should contact the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority at (340) 777-4432 or (340) 773-4681 and ask to speak to the housing counselors who should know how to access loan mitigation programs.
“I have been informed that USDA- Rural Development has already issued a letter to its homeowners on what resources are available to them during this crisis,” Congresswoman Christensen said. For USDA:
• If your income has been reduced and will be for the foreseeable future, you can request a payment assistance package. They will review and determine your eligibility for payment assistance to lower your monthly payment.
• If you are temporarily unable to make your scheduled monthly payment because your income has decreased by 20% or more you may be eligible for a moratorium for a period of time.
For assistance contact a Customer Service Representative at 1-800-414-1226 or 1-800-438-1832 for the hearing impaired. Calls are taken from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm Central time, Monday through Friday. Please have your account number and your Social Security Number available when you call.
Congresswoman Christensen noted that due to the large volume of people accessing these programs from around the country, those seeking help need to be patient, have their records organized, and keep track of their calls and other communications. “If there are problems, homeowners should contact our office.”
Congresswoman Christensen said that her office is planning a Foreclosure Prevention Workshop with these agencies to assist homeowners in the near future and the public should look out for announced dates and times.