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Florida Receives $676M from Homeowner Assistance Fund

Florida's DEO will distribute the funds to homeowners impacted by COVID-19 for things such as late mortgage payments, defaults, foreclosures and delinquent utility bills.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 included a “Homeowner Assistance Fund” (HAF) slated to help owners impacted by COVID-19 and the changes it created throughout the economy.

Under the plan, each state oversees distribution. Of the money allotted – a minimum of $50 million per state – Florida received $676,102,379 through the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) will oversee distribution in the state, and it unveiled a webpage where homeowners can begin the application process. The page includes a link to register for consideration, considered the “first step of the process to determine your eligibility.”

In distributing the money, the U.S. Treasury created guidelines, saying, “Funds from the HAF may be used for assistance with mortgage payments, homeowner’s insurance, utility payments and other specified purposes.” Based on those guidelines, the Florida DOE created a 48-page document and posted it online, Needs Assessment and Plan for the Homeowner Assistance Fund, outlining how Florida will use and distribute the funds. The maximum mortgage assistance per household is $50,000.

Abbreviated overview of funding rules

Homeowner eligibility

  • A qualified financial hardship must have occurred after Jan. 21, 2020, though the hardship could have started earlier.
  • Currently own and occupy the property as their primary residence.
  • Meet income eligibility requirements.
  • Complete and sign a “hardship affidavit/attestation, application, terms of service, consent forms and any other documentation required by DEO.”
  • Provide documentation within DEO timeframes, including self-certification or attestation of income and Socially Disadvantaged Individual status, as applicable.
  • Co-owners may not separately apply for program assistance.

Legal ownership structures

  • A home owned exclusively by one or more natural persons
  • A home in which the owner still lives but ownership rights were transferred into a non-incorporated, revocable living trust.

Qualified financial hardships

  • Income reduction – A temporary or permanent loss of earned income directly related to the coronavirus pandemic (e.g., job loss or reduction in working hours).
  • Living expenses increase – Higher out-of-pocket household expenses directly related to the coronavirus pandemic (e.g., increased costs to care for a family member).

Income eligibility

  • Incomes must be less than or equal to 150% of an area’s median income or 100% of the median U.S. income, whichever is greater.
  • However, DEO says at least 70% of the funds will go to homeowners whose incomes are less than or equal to 100% of an area’s median income or the median U.S. income, whichever is greater.

Eligible property

  • Single-family (attached or detached) properties
  • Condominium units
  • One to four-unit properties where the homeowner is living in one of the units as their primary residence
  • Manufactured homes permanently affixed to real property and taxed as real estate
  • Mobile homes not permanently affixed to real property

Ineligible property

  • Vacant or abandoned residences
  • Second homes
  • Investment properties

Allowed uses for the money

  • First mortgage loan payments (principal, interest, late fees, charges)
  • Subordinate mortgage loan payments (principal, interest, late fees, charges)
  • Manufactured/mobile home loan payments (principal, interest, late fees, charges)
  • Down payment assistance loan payments (principal, interest, late fees, charges)
  • Escrow payments
  • Property taxes (including late fees and charges)
  • Homeowner insurance premiums (including late fees and charges)
  • Flood insurance premiums (including late fees and charges)

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