Pandemic Mortgage Relief Program still in starting blocks after nearly 5 months ::

– A federally funded program to help people struggling to pay their mortgages during the pandemic is still in the starting blocks, but it could open soon.

The US Treasury Department said it opened an online portal on Friday allowing states that are expected to distribute nearly $10 billion across the country to submit plans for the project. Congress approved the funding in March as part of the $1.9 trillion U.S. bailout, but it took time for the government to draft more detailed rules on how the money will be disbursed to homeowners.

With the final guidelines coming this week and the portal opening, it will be up to states to submit those plans, the Treasury Department said. The agency will have to approve the plans before states can make payments, and a spokeswoman could not provide a timeline on Friday beyond “expeditiously.”

She said state programs received 10% of their allocations in April to get things started.

A North Carolina official confirmed Treasury had contacted to say the portal was open and said a plan would be submitted.

The change was still fresh. From Friday at 5 p.m. the Treasury Department webpage for the Homeowners Assistance Fund program did not indicate that the portal was open.

“The Treasury will soon make available a portal through which HAF participants can submit their plans,” the site says in bold. “The time frame for states and territories to submit HAF plans or notify the Treasury when their HAF plan will be submitted will be 14 days from the date the portal becomes available.”

The Treasury spokeswoman said this would be updated.

The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency will oversee the program in that state. On Thursday, a spokeswoman told WRAL News that the agency was awaiting the portal and no opening date had been announced.

“We are using this time to find a vendor to administer the program, build the necessary infrastructure, educate potential local partners, and develop a marketing and outreach plan so we can alert struggling homeowners statewide as soon as possible. opening our application portal,” spokeswoman Madison Lewis said in an email.

North Carolina’s share totals about $273 million, and once it starts flowing, 60% will be reserved for people earning the median income or less for their region. The rest will go to people earning up to 150% of that median income

State and local governments have a separate program to help tenants, and officials say they have struggled to get the word out to recruit enough applicants, even as advocates fear a deportation crisis once the current federal deportation moratorium ends.

Lewis said that until the program opens for applications, struggling homeowners should contact the State Home Foreclosure Prevention Project, which offers free counseling and can work with repairers on behalf of homeowners.

The number to find an advisor in your area is 1-888-442-8188.

Some local governments may have smaller programs to help homeowners. A Buncombe County spokeswoman, for example, said the county launched a program on Friday offering homeowners one-time grants of $300 if they meet income thresholds.