U.S. Senator Bill Nelson Requests 2nd SIGTARP Investigation Into The State Of Florida’s Mishandling Of Hardest Hit Funds
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) has requested an investigation into the state of Florida’s Hardest Hit Fund mortgage assistance program. This is Nelson’s second request to Treasury asking for the investigation. Nelson called for the investigation after an article appeared in the Tampa Bay Times last week by reporter Susan Taylor Martin. The article indicated the state was allocating monies from Florida’s Hardest Hit Program to down payment assistance programs.
The Hardest Hit Program was created in 2010 after the housing crash. It was to help distressed homeowners stay in their homes. The state of Florida was given $1 billion as part of the program.
Florida’s foreclosure rate remains the nation’s second highest. Yet, Martin found that:
$50 million in Hardest Hit money is now being used to help people in five counties buy houses.
Martin also found:
At least five other Hillsborough County residents who previously owned homes have received up to $15,000 in help from the Florida Hardest Hit Fund Down Payment Assistance Program.
Only 24,000 of the 116,000 distressed homeowners who applied to Hardest Hit in Florida received any help since 2010. Almost half of Florida’s $1 billion remains unspent. Any money not used by December 2017 must be returned to the U.S. Treasury Department.
Florida Is On SIGTARP’s RADAR
Florida’s mishandling of Hardest Hit funds has also made it on the radar of SIGTARP. SIGTARP’s Christy Romero told the Tampa Bay Times:
States, particularly Florida, have not done a good job of getting this money out to homeowners and rather than do a better job on existing programs … they create other programs to spend on someone else.
SIGTARP found Florida had consistently under-performed compared to other states in getting the money to desperate homeowners after Bill Nelson requested a probe.
Bill Nelson has also requested U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s assistance into having SIGTARP do another investigation.
In his letter to Jack Lew, Nelson writes, “In light of this report, and what appears to be continued mismanagement of this program, I’m asking that you take a deeper look into whether the state is doing everything it can to meet the needs of all Floridians eligible to receive this assistance, and offer guidance as needed.”
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