Stimulus funds available to help people stay in their homes

By W. WINSTON SKINNER Federal stimulus dollars are available to help Cowetans who meet income guidelines stay in their homes. Money allocated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is available, and an application process is under way at the Community Action for Improvement office on Savannah Street. Minnie Robinson, program coordinator with Community Action and a CAFI employee for more than 40 years, said the ARRA funds can help either renters or homeowners.
The ARRA money, which must be spent by the end of August, may be used to pay rent, make mortgage payments or help with utilities. Maximum monthly income to qualify for assistance is $1,805 for one person, $2,428 for two, $3,052 for three, $3,675 for four, $4,298 for five, $4,922 for six, $5,545 for seven and $6,168 for eight. Robinson said CAFI has some of the funds it usually has to help needy families -- including a block grant and some money earmarked for energy costs. The stimulus funds constitute "extra money to help with the crisis," she said. People coming to CAFI for an appointment should bring a Social Security card and proof of income. The application process looks at what the household needs to get through the next 30 days. If problems persist, the situation can be reexamined 60 days later. Robinson said the program cannot help if foreclosure proceedings have started. Robinson said help also is available for people who meet the guidelines and decide to relocate. Some help with relocation expenses may be available. For more information, call 770-253-3864. Robinson said she has concerns about families whose income has been greatly reduced -- through a job loss, for example -- and who have a remaining mortgage with equity accrued over many years. She is finding that people in that situation often cannot refinance their homes. While the ARRA funds can help on a short-term basis, Robinson said a way to rework mortgage balances that would lower payments could keep many families in their homes. "The middle income people are the ones who are suffering now," Robinson said. "I'm very concerned about the working people."

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