Homeowners facing foreclosure have only hours left to apply for a federal program that could help save their homes.
"Apply, apply apply," urged mortgage counselor Joan LaFemina of the non-profit Community Development Corporation of Long Island.
The program is called the Emergency Homeowner's Loan Program (EHLP). It is administered by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, aimed at homeowners who are unemployed or underemployed and are at least three months behind on their mortgage payments.
"It can help get them current on their mortgages and maybe buy them some time until they get their incomes increased," LaFemina said.
EHLP offers up to $50,000 to homeowners. The "loans" are no-interest and "forgivable," according to HUD, meaning that if the homeowner can find work and resume mortgage payments, the money won't have to be paid back.
Nationwide, $1 billion has been allocated for the program, a HUD spokesman said. In New York state alone, more than $100 million is expected to be paid to close to 3,000 homeowners.
One homeowner, Fred Rosen, of Dix Hills, said the process was simple.
"And now I am keeping my fingers crossed," he said.
Rosen applied for EHLP after hearing about the program from a mortgage broker. The former office equipment salesman has been out of work since last October and is three months behind on his mortgage payments. His home is in danger of falling into foreclosure.
"I don't want to see it go to foreclosure," Rosen said. "Then I would lose everything."
The deadline to apply for the program is Friday. The problem, say local mortgage counselors, is that it has received little publicity.
"It's supposed to help a lot of Long Islanders but if they don't know about it, it's useless," said Annette Bernard of the Central Islip Civic Council.
HUD has blamed budgetary and time constraints for the lack of outreach on the program, but local nonprofit groups have been doing their best to alert those who could be helped.
Foreclosures are so prevalent in Bernard's community, her organization has even erected a billboard directing homeowners in need to help.
"We get calls every day," said Bernard. "It's devastating to the community."
For more information on EHLP, go to http://findehlp.com or call 855-346-3345.