The Department of Administration has reviewed approximately half of all pre-applications submitted for its Homeowners Assistance Fund program – a federally funded direct financial assistance program that helps defray the cost of late payment to banks and utility companies.
Guam’s approved program provides up to $15,000 to make mortgage, hydro, water, waste, property tax, and homeowner’s association payments. A total of $13.5 million in federal funds has been allocated to the program.
At a meeting of an interagency group on homelessness on Thursday, a day before the pre-application period closes, Audrey Topasna, the program’s director, said 850 residents had already applied. DOA staff reviewed 550 submitted documents and determined that 490 were pre-eligible and 60 ineligible.
Of those approved, 20 submitted all required documents and were found qualified for assistance. The first batch of payments should be issued by the end of the month, Topasna said.
Those deemed ineligible can appeal the decision.
“We have given the owner up to 15 working days to submit a written request. Once we receive it, the staff will contact the owner and we will discuss the issues with them, and we’ll go from there,” Topasna said.
Errors that occurred while completing the application or providing disqualifying responses can be resolved during the appeals process, she said.
“Sometimes they may not have understood (the questions about) being affected by COVID, or maybe they had checked off that it was not their home or primary residence when maybe they didn’t understand the question,” she said.
Officials are also monitoring the current $15,000 limit. The figure was reached after the completion of a local needs assessment, in particular to support up to a year of mortgage payments. “A few” pre-qualified applicants have already exceeded the maximum amount in their own calculations of eligible costs, Topasna said.
“As we continue to review the amount of assistance these owners need, maybe we can talk about that – we can definitely use it to capture data when we submit our quarterly reports (to the federal government). And then we can talk about, if the discussion is necessary, we could talk about it. For the moment, it is a little too early.
Lieutenant Governor Josh Tenorio asked Topasna to “tag” the data and continue to monitor it to see if the $15,000 limit is insufficient for more qualified applicants.
“I’m glad there’s at least one avenue to try to determine if there’s an opportunity for us to get additional consideration at the US Treasury,” he said.
About 1,000 households are expected to benefit from the program, and the Guam government can use federal funds through September 2025.