Last year, state funding cuts killed off a program designed to help homeowners in trouble. The Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) granted loans to homeowners who were in danger of foreclosure because of circumstances beyond their control, like a lost job. The program has helped thousands save their homes.
This week, the state Senate acted to save HEMAP, using funds from a federal settlement with banks using questionable foreclosure practices. The state's share of the $25 billion settlement is $69 million.
There was a danger that Pennsylvania would follow the bad example of two other states to use their share of the settlement to plug holes in the general fund. This would have added insult to the injury done when the state stopped funding this effective program; at its height, HEMAP got $25 million from the state, though by the time it died, its allocation was closer to $10 million. HEMAP was a wise investment in the state's health, since it stabilized cities and communities by cutting the foreclosure rate. Loans were made to those with affordable mortgages, not the kind of subprime loans that led to the nation's economic meltdown.
State Sen. John Gordner of Columbia County led the charge to restore HEMAP; the bill will go to Gov. Corbett for his signature. This is an easy way for the governor to mitigate some the damaging cuts that his proposed budget would inflict; what would be better is for the state to resume its own funding of the program. n