In the current down economy, as government and private sector employees continue to lose their jobs, many are worried about losing their homes too. To help, U.S. Virgin Islands Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen has aggregated multiple federal programs to help people stay in their homes.
"Several homeowners have called or emailed my office asking about federal programs that can assist them, as they will be out of income and unable to maintain their mortgages," Christensen said in a written statement. "There are programs in the departments of Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture (Rural Development) and the Small Business Administration that can be helpful."
One program, the Hardest Hit Fund, is not available to residents of the United States Virgin Islands because it was created specifically for 18 states and Washington, D.C. But a number of other programs can help homeowners prevent foreclosure.
United StatesTreasury Department
The Treasury Department has three options under the Making Home Affordable program:
- Unemployment Program – Mortgage payments are reduced to 31 percent of income or suspended altogether for 12 months.
- Home Affordable Modification Program – Permanent modifications to a mortgage are possible.
- Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives – Short sales and deed in lieu of foreclosure options can be arranged.
Homeowners can call the HOPE Hotline at 1-888-995-4673 and talk to mortgage experts at any time. Additional information about the federal programs is at www.MakingHomeAffordable.gov. Before calling the hotline, homeowners should gather the following information:
- Full name;
- Phone number and email address;
- Property address;
- Loan servicer name; and
- Loan number.
Small Business Administration
If a homeowner has a Small Business Administration Disaster Loan, they can work with a disaster loan official to reduce their monthly payment by stretching it out or putting a temporary hold on payments. There will be no loan forgiveness on the disaster loans. Homeowners can contact Disaster Loan Assistance Customer Service at firstname.lastname@example.org. or 1-800-659-2955. Contact the Virgin Islands Small Business Administration Office at 718-5381 on St. Croix.
United States Housing and Urban Development
If a homeowner has a Federal Housing Administration loan through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, they can contact the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority at 777-4432 or 773-4681 to speak to a housing counselor.
United States Department of Agriculture
If a person’s income has been reduced – and will be for the foreseeable future – a payment assistance package can be requested. The USDA will review and determine eligibility for payment assistance to lower monthly payments.
If a homeowner temporarily is unable to make a scheduled monthly payment because of their income has decreased by 20 percent or more, the homeowner may be allowed to defer payments for a period of time.
For information, call 1-800-414-1226 or 1-800-438-1832 for the hearing impaired. Callers should have their account number and Social Security number available.
Delegate Christensen said that because of the large volume of people accessing these programs from around the country, those seeking help need to be patient, have their records organized, and keep track of their calls and other communications.
"If there are problems, homeowners should contact our office," Christensen said.
Christensen said she is planning a Foreclosure Prevention Workshop with the various federal agencies to help homeowners.
For more information, call Christensen’s offices at 774-4408 on St. Thomas; 778-5900 on St. Croix; or 776-1212 on St. John.