Retirement nest eggs, children’s college funds, rainy day savings, valuable equity in a home — many South Carolinians have worked their entire adult lives to build these critical financial safety nets. But due to the lingering effects of the recession, most notably continued unemployment and underemployment, many hardworking, responsible homeowners are concerned about paying their mortgages and are using every bit of savings to try to keep their homes.
Fortunately, in South Carolina we don’t believe that unforeseen, catastrophic economic events beyond a homeowner’s control should cost them their homes or savings. Many of these homeowners — our friends, neighbors and even families — could be eligible for financial assistance through the S.C. Homeownership and Employment Lending Program.
Launched in early 2011, SC HELP is a foreclosure-prevention program backed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the S.C. State Housing Finance & Development Authority. It already has helped more than 5,000 homeowners keep their mortgages from slipping into default or foreclosure. This financial aid has been a lifeline for our state’s families, communities and economy.
The effects of widespread foreclosure are far-reaching: Families are stressed and displaced; homes are left vacant, potentially attracting crime and a devaluing of surrounding homes; tax revenues are negatively impacted.
The program is open to homeowners who are faced with unemployment, underemployment, reduction of income for self-employed, death of a spouse, catastrophic medical expenses or divorce. Homeowners who qualify can receive reinstatement assistance, which helps to pay arrearages and bring the loan current; monthly payment assistance, which helps while they seek employment and return to self-sustainability; or transition assistance, which provides funding as families transition from homeownership in cases where the mortgage cannot be salvaged and the homeowner is able to negotiate a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.
Lenders begin the foreclosure process quickly, and SC HELP can most benefit homeowners who seek assistance before the foreclosure process begins. While we cannot help everyone, even homeowners who don’t qualify for funds through the program can find local resources, agencies, assistance and tools for their individual situations at SCHELP.gov.
Responsible homeowners all over South Carolina have worked hard to support their families, and in turn, SC HELP is available to provide eligible homeowners with assistance that keeps families in homes and neighborhoods, communities and savings accounts intact.
For more information, go to SCHELP.gov. Homeowners without internet access may call toll free at 1-855-435-7472.
Valarie M. Williams
Executive Director, S.C. State Housing Finance and Development Authority