Advocates hoping Corbett will restore funding for mortgage help

    Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is under pressure to help homeowners when he lays out his 2012-13 state budget Tuesday.  Activists want to restart a mortgage-assistance program that stopped accepting new applicants because of last year’s budget cut.John Dodds is director of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, one of the 80 organizations urging Corbett to reinstate the Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP).  The program provided loans to homeowners facing foreclosure. “This program has been around for almost 28 years,” said Dodds.  “It’s helped 47,000 families prevent foreclosure on their homes and we’re in a terrible housing market. Foreclosures are rampant and HEMAP really needs to be around for people to protect their homes.

    “We lost it as of July 1st of last year due to no funding or inadequate funding in the budget,” he said. “It’s time to restore it.”Program advocates urge Corbett to remember the program provides loans — not grants — to help struggling homeowners.  The Rev. Sandra Strauss is director of public advocacy for the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, one of the groups that wants the program to be refunded.”The church bodies that belong to the Pennsylvania Council of Churches all have congregations that have parishioners who have ongoing challenges with the economy. Many of them find themselves in the position of having to assist some of their own people and people in their community,” said Strauss.  “So it is something that continues to plague congregations at the local level.”

    A Corbett spokesman said last year, with the state facing a $4.2 billion deficit, the governor cut funding for the mortgage program as part of balancing the budget without raising taxes.  He declined to comment on specifics this time around, but said it’s going to be another difficult budget process.

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