Homeowners who are behind in payments because of COVID-19 can get help from the Milwaukee County Mortgage Assistance Program. (File photo by Scottie Lee Meyers)

The Milwaukee County Housing Division has partnered with Housing Resources Inc. to provide mortgage assistance to homeowners facing mortgage delinquency or foreclosure due to financial hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funds are provided through the federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act.

Housing Resources, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping individuals and families buy homes, received $2.7 million for the Milwaukee County Mortgage Assistance Program and has already distributed about $300,000 to 65 approved applicants.

Emmett Gross, the homeownership preservation specialist at Housing Resources, answered questions about the process.

How long is the application process?

It’s a two-step process. First, there is a general screening process that makes sure applicants are eligible, and if they are, we complete the process of requesting necessary documentation.

Who is eligible?

  1. Applicants must have experienced a loss of income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic after March 1, 2020, and be able to document the income loss.
  2. They must own the home they are requesting assistance for.
  3. Mortgage payments for which assistance is requested must be at least 30 days delinquent at the time of application and due between March 2020 and December 2020.
  4. The mortgage(s) for which assistance is requested must be a first or second mortgage on the property.
  5. Applicants must have an annualized current household income of no more than 80% of the area median income as defined in guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Was Housing Resources prepared for how many people would need assistance?

We’ve had around 500 applications thus far and some phone calls about the program. The county reached out to us for this program because we have experience with helping people navigate housing issues like foreclosures and we have experience managing and distributing funds.

How can people make this process easier for themselves?

They should gather and submit all the documentation needed as soon as possible. Looking for those last documents often slows down the process.

Does meeting the eligibility guidelines make someone immediately available for funds?

No. You can be eligible, but if you do not verify eligibility through proper sources, you may not receive assistance.

Are there any misconceptions? 

Yes. The most important thing that people should know is that these funds do NOT cover property taxes. They apply to mortgages. Also, these funds are exclusively for people affected by COVID.

Is there anything else people should know?

We want people to know that the deadline to apply for this program is Dec. 18. and we are working on a first-come, first-served basis so if you are thinking of applying you need to do it as soon as possible.

Can people get help if they don’t qualify? 

Yes. We know it’s frustrating to not receive the funds, but we are still willing to assist people with their mortgage companies and whatever else they may need.

Other resources you should know

  • Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee: 414-727-5300
  • Mediate Milwaukee: 414-939-8800
  • Legal Action of Wisconsin: 855-947-2529
  • Social Development Commission: 414-906-2700

Mediate Milwaukee offers mediation for tenants, landlords, homeowners and lenders to help work through conflicts and come to agreements. You can call them at 414-939-8800 or email apply@mediatemilwaukee.com.

Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee can provide legal assistance to income-eligible tenants in dispute with landlords, as well as to homeowners. You can call at 414-727-5300.

Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council can help homeowners protect themselves from mortgage and foreclosure prevention scams, as well as from predatory home loans. You can call  414-278-1240.

Housing Resources Inc. can provide counseling to homeowners and has programs to help people prevent foreclosure. You can call 414-461-6330.

Federal loan programs: Those with federally or Government Sponsored Enterprise-backed mortgages are covered by the CARES Act. Mortgage forbearance is available to those who request it. The CARES Act also suspended foreclosures on many government/GSE-backed loans through  at least Dec. 31.

Homeowner with a mortgage through the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, or WHEDA,  can find information and assistance by clicking here.

If you think you are at risk of becoming homeless, you can always call 2-1-1 or text your ZIP code to TXT-211 (898-211).

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