In early 2021, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law. This law created a Homeowner Assistance Fund, a federal program, to give around $10 billion to the states to help households that are behind on their mortgages and other housing expenses due to COVID-19.
Eligible homeowners who've experienced a financial hardship because of the pandemic can get a piece of the approximately $92 million allocated to the state—up to $40,000 per household—from the Wisconsin Help for Homeowners program. This program uses federal money to help homeowners make mortgage payments and pay other home-related costs.
Again, the Wisconsin Help for Homeowners program offers up to $40,000 per household. This money can be used to cover overdue housing bills, like mortgage payments (including reinstatement costs), insurance, property taxes, utilities and home energy costs, homeowners' association and condominium fees, lot fees, and more.
To qualify for relief from this program, you must have suffered a financial hardship (a material reduction in income or an increase in living expenses) after January 21, 2020, because of the coronavirus pandemic. Your hardship must have created or increased your risk of mortgage delinquency, mortgage default, foreclosure, loss of utilities or home energy services, or displacement from your home. You don't have to have caught COVID-19 to qualify.
In addition, you have to meet some other guidelines:
Assistance below $10,000 is structured as a grant that you don't have to repay. Amounts over $10,000 are structured as a one-year, non-interest bearing, non-amortizing forgivable loan. You have to repay the loan if you sell, refinance, or transfer ownership of the home within one year. But if no resale, transfer, or refinance occurs within one year and you remain in the home, the loan is fully forgiven.
Payments go directly to the loan servicer or other approved entity, not to homeowners.
To apply for help from this program, go to the Wisconsin Help for Homeowners website and click on "Apply Now." You'll have to register and use Neighborly software (an online program) to apply for assistance. You'll also probably need to provide some documentation with your application, like proof of your income and tax returns.
If you think you might qualify, it's best to apply as soon as possible.
If you get an unsolicited offer by phone, in the U.S. mail, through email, or by text message offering mortgage relief or foreclosure rescue services, be wary. Scammers are increasingly targeting homeowners who've been affected by COVID-19. The Wisconsin Help for Homeowners program is free. If anyone asks you to pay a fee to get housing counseling or to receive foreclosure prevention services from this program, it's a scam.
If you have questions or need help with your application, call 855-2-HOME-WI (8:30 to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday) or speak to your regional program contact and read the program's FAQs. You may also get help from a HUD-approved housing counselor who will assist you at no cost. To find a counselor near you, go to HUD's website or call 800-569-4287.