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$50M in new help for Vt. homeowners struggling with overdue bills

Published: Jan. 24, 2022 at 12:10 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2022 at 5:40 PM EST
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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) - Homeowners feeling the pinch from past-due mortgage and property tax payments-- listen up. A new pot of $50 million in financial help is available.

We’re approaching three years since the coronavirus arrived in Vermont, and housing advocates say the need for financial assistance is still great. Omicron cases are throwing a wrench in schools and workplaces, and taking a toll on Vermont homeowners on thin financial ice.

“They’re living on very limited incomes and the number of expenses that has increased for them that just is making a tight budget already tighter,” said Tricia Leone of Neighborworks of Western Vermont.

Leone is hearing from low-income people, those with disabilities and elderly Vermonters on fixed incomes who are slipping through the cracks. But she says a new pot of $50 million in federal cash will help bridge the gap.

“Without this help, there’s a lot of Vermonters who absolutely would be facing foreclosure,” Leone said.

The aid is targeted toward Vermonters who have fallen behind on mortgage and utility payments. And unlike other packages, people can use it for past-due property taxes, too, dating all the way back to the beginning of the pandemic.

Applicants will have to prove financial hardship from the pandemic and there’s a $30,000 cap per household.

“There’s so many Vermonters who are now impacted economically by this pandemic, who in many cases never had to navigate public assistance benefits before,” said Maura Collins, the executive director of the Vermont Housing Finance Agency.

The Vermont Housing Finance Agency granted just under $10 million to 900 Vermonters last year in a previous package. This time, they expect this money to help some 3,000 families.

“We also heard from a lot of households where there were a lot of expenses, child care expenses, people had to leave work because they were homeschooling their kids for a period of time,” Collins said.

There are caseworkers to walk people through the application process and legal assistance to help people get out of debt.

You can find more information and application materials on vermonthap.vhfa.org. A Homeowner Assistance Program information hotline is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 833-221-4208.

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