Mortgage Relief for Unemployed Secures Place in Financial Reform

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The landmark financial reform legislation approved by a cross-chamber committee of House and Senate leaders on Friday includes a provision which offers a remedy to the growing number of unemployed homeowners who are facing foreclosure.

The amendment, crafted by Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pennsylvania), provides $1 billion to ensure homeowners who’ve lost their jobs don’t lapse on mortgage payments. That’s pared down from previous reform bill installments, which called for $3 billion.

Under the program, qualified homeowners will be able to borrow up to $50,000 to assist them with monthly payments, provided they have “a reasonable prospect” of resuming mortgage payments within 24 months.

“Americans need help, 8 percent of all mortgage holders are currently at risk of losing their homes and that is unacceptable,” Fattah said. “I’m encouraged that my colleagues supported the mortgage relief provision in conference to ensure that families won’t be faced with the double blow of being unemployed and homeless.”

Fattah says he introduced the Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Act (HEMA) knowing that as the unemployment rate continues to rise, millions of families nationwide would be in jeopardy of losing their homes.

The plan is patterned after a program implemented in Pennsylvania when Fattah served as a state legislator. According to the congressman, the initiative has already proven itself in Pennsylvania, where $236 million has been provided to tens of thousands of unemployed workers and helped them avert foreclosure.

Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s praised Fattah for his leadership on foreclosure avoidance and said, “The additional funds will certainly be welcomed by the nation’s mayors who work daily to prevent mortgage foreclosures that are still ravaging too many families and neighborhoods in our nation.”

The measure must be approved by lawmakers as part of the larger financial overhaul legislation. A final vote is expected next week. Lawmakers have pledged to have it ready for President Obama’s signature by July 4th.

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Paul Roesch
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