Homeowner Assistance Fund to reopen in PA in March

A year after suspending new applications, Pennsylvania is preparing to relaunch its Covid-19 relief program for struggling homeowners, but two other states announced the upcoming end to their initiatives.

While an official date is still pending, the Keystone State is on track to begin enrolling qualified homeowners facing continued economic hardship from the pandemic in March, a spokesperson with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency said. The news was first reported by investigative outlet Spotlight PA and confirmed by National Mortgage News, 

Citing slow processing times and other problems with a third-party vendor contracted to administer the program, Pennsylvania ceased accepting new applications in February 2023, with the intent of moving funding operations in-house. 

Although its program was unable to take new participants for over a year, the agency has continued to provide assistance to homeowners already enrolled. As of last week, the state has doled out $203.2 million to residents to help pay for mortgage, insurance, tax and other housing costs, with $94.7 million remaining. Only six other states received more money for their homeowners than Pennsylvania. 

The Department of the Treasury first made financial relief available to states and territories through the Homeowner Assistance Fund three years ago, leaving each jurisdiction responsible for the development and administration of their own programs. The fund was introduced through provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, meant to address the economic challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

With Pennsylvania ready to reintroduce HAF measures, two other states recently announced pending March deadlines for homeowners to apply for payment assistance, with both stating their allotted share of monies was at or near depletion.

New Hampshire informed residents it would close its HAF application portal on March 8. In mid December, the state began placing all new applicants on a waiting list, with reviews dependent on available funding. Residents on the list are considered on a first-come, first-served basis. Federal officials originally awarded the Granite State $50 million in 2021. 

Oklahoma, meanwhile, will cease accepting applications on March 20. Just over $28 million in aid remains in the state’s original disbursement of $87 million, according to the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency. Requests for almost $23 million of the remaining dollars are pending.

As of mid February, over two-thirds of the $9.96 billion made available nationwide in the Homeowner Assistance Fund has been exhausted. Twenty-six out of 54 programs have already closed their programs to new enrollees, while six states, including Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, are placing applicants on a waiting list, according to the National Council of State Housing Agencies. 

Homeowner Assistance Fund engagement has varied from state to state, though, with a few expanding outreach efforts and adjusting eligibility criteria last year to help more residents. The changes made many homeowners who did not qualify on initial program rollout in some states, such as reverse-mortgage holders in California and Hawaii, eligible.

States receiving any American Rescue Plan Act funding must spend their disbursements by late 2026. March 13 will mark the four-year anniversary of the declaration of a coronavirus national emergency.  

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