State launches Emergency Mortgage Assistance program to help homeowners amid pandemic

(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Housing Development Authority announced Monday the opening of the state’s Emergency Mortgage Assistance program designed to help homeowners affected by the pandemic.

The program will give grants of up to $15,000 to help income-eligible homeowners who have struggled to make mortgage payments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state recently launched a similar program with grants of up to $5,000 for renters.

Applications are available at ema.ihda.org. The program is expected to help about 10,000 households by the end of the year.

“At a time when the connection between housing and health is clearer than ever, it is critically important that we keep families stably housed for individual well-being, public health and the recovery of our state’s economy,” Pritzker said. “The Emergency Mortgage Assistance program will provide critical support for our homeowners, giving them the time they need to regain their financial footing.”

The Household Pulse Survey from the U.S. Census found that over 1 in 10 Illinois homeowners expected to have trouble making mortgage payments in September, according to a news release.

“Everyone suffers when a friend, family member or neighbor goes into foreclosure, and the pandemic has left too many families at risk of losing their homes,” IHDA Executive Director Kristin Faust said in a news release. “The Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program is a vital opportunity for homeowners get the support they need during this difficult time, and I encourage those who have lost a job or seen their income decline as a result of COVID-19 to visit our application portal to apply today.”

The Emergency Mortgage Assistance program will help homeowners who have lost income and missed mortgage payments after March. Approved applicants will get up to $15,000 paid directly to their mortgage servicer. The grants will cover the homeowner’s past due or forbearance balance and their regular mortgage payments through Dec. 30 or until the funding is exhausted, whichever comes first, according to the news release. Payments may include all escrowed first mortgage expenses including property taxes, insurance and certain fees. Repayment won’t be required. Applications for EMA will be accepted through Sept. 4.

Due to anticipated volume, the window for applications could close early, officials said. The department will use a third-party to select a pool of applications to be reviewed for eligibility.

Homeowners must meet several eligibility requirements:

Household adjusted gross income from 2019 Tax Return was at or below 120 percent of the Area Median Income;An adult member of the household has had a loss of income due to the COVID-19 crisis on or after March 1, 2020;Homeowner’s mortgage was current through February 29, 2020; andThe mortgage is past due or in forbearance.

The money for the state program comes from the federal CARES) Act approved in March. The CARES Act provided $3.5 billion in relief funds to the state to help residents and businesses. In May, the Illinois lawmakers directed $396 million of that to the department to help struggling renters and homeowners. The funding must be distributed by Dec. 30.

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