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Government assistance is still available for those struggling to pay rent or make mortgage payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Tennessee, roughly 6,700 households are 90 days or more delinquent on mortgage payments, putting them at risk of foreclosure, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In Hamilton County, there are 447, according to a spokesperson for the county mayor's office.

To help those burdened by the financial impact of COVID-19, HUD is extending its forbearance program for mortgages insured through the Federal Housing Administration through the end of July.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced in June that a foreclosure moratorium for mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be extended until July 31, 2021.

HUD, Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will continue to allow homeowners who have not taken advantage of forbearance to date to enter into COVID-related forbearance through September 30, 2021, while homeowners with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac-backed mortgages who have COVID-related hardships will continue to be eligible for COVID-related forbearance.

Finally, HUD, VA and USDA will be announcing additional steps in July to offer borrowers payment reduction options that will enable more homeowners to stay in their homes.

"Homeowners with an FHA-insured mortgage at risk of losing their home due to the pandemic should contact their mortgage provider as soon as possible to take advantage of the FHA forbearance program," HUD spokesman Joe Phillips told the Times Free Press last week.

According to Phillips, the FHA's COVID-19 mortgage payment forbearance reduces or pauses monthly mortgage payments for an initial period of up to six months, and there may be the possibility for an extension.

The program does not waive payments but allows homeowners additional time to make payments.

To inquire about the program, affected homeowners should contact their mortgage provider directly for assistance and may also contact a HUD-approved housing counseling agency for free advice, too.

To find a HUD-approved agency, homeowners can call 800-569-4287, or use the online search at hud.gov/housingcounseling.

The deadline to apply for COVID forbearance is July 31.

 

Rental assistance

Those in rental housing affected by the pandemic can apply for housing assistance through the city and Tennessee Housing Development Agency.

The city of Chattanooga is still offering aid for those affected by COVID-19 across Hamilton County, according to Rachel Howard, director of the Office of Family Empowerment.

Howard said Monday the city is able to temporarily provide assistance to those making 200% of the local poverty level who can show they were financially affected by the pandemic.

Qualified residents can be eligible for up to 12 months of rental assistance through coronavirus relief funding provided by the federal government.

Howard said there is no set deadline for applying for the CARES Act funding, which can be used by the city through September 2022.

The Office of Family Empowerment is not offering in-person services at this time but can be reached at 423-643-6434.

To apply for COVID-19 relief through the state, residents can call the Tennessee Housing Development Agency at 844-500-1112.

The call center is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

People can also visit the department online at thda.org.

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at staylor@timesfreepress.com.

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