FORT MYERS, Fla- Florida's Hardest Hit Program to help those facing foreclosure is about to go statewide. More than a billion dollars of federal funding is available to cover mortgage payments for up to 18 months or bring delinquent loans current.

Lee County homeowners facing foreclosure have been able to apply for Florida's Hardest Hit grants since October.

963 people so far sent in an application to be part of the pilot program.

64 have been approved, 108 are in the pipeline for assistance, 371 are under review and more than 400 rejected.

Florida's share of the federal funding comes from a $7.6 billion award to 18 states. Only California's is larger. The highest amount any person can get is $35,000. The Florida housing finance corporation estimates it will be able to help about 20,000 people. Unemployed and underemployed homeowners are targeted because they often have trouble getting loan modifications that require them to be able to afford a lower payment.

To qualify:

-You have to be a Florida resident, living in the home you're trying to save.

-You cannot have a second property.

-The mortgage can be no more than 180 days late at the time of the application and must have originated before January first of 2009.

-The balance on that loan has to be below $400,000.

-Your housing debt has to be more than 31 percent of your monthly gross income.

-Your assets cannot be more than $5,000 or three times the monthly mortgage payment.

 

For those who qualify, the payments are more a grant than a loan. However, the money will have to be paid back if you sell the house in less than five years or go into foreclosure. Applications outside of Lee County will be accepted beginning in the last week of February. Log onto www.FLHardestHitHelp.org for more.