Florida's Hardest Hit Fund program blistered in report
Tampa Bay Times real estate reporter Susan Taylor Martin has been reporting for years on the troubles with Florida's Hardest Hit Fund. Federal investigators released an audit today:
In a blistering report released today, federal investigators say Florida has consistently "under-performed'' other states in using federal mortgage assistance money to help desperate homeowners facing foreclosure.
Of the 18 states participating in the Treasury Department's Hardest Hit Fund, Florida has the lowest rate of approving homeowners for assistance, one of the highest rates of denying assistance and an overall "slowness'' in processing thousands of applications.
Five years into the program, only 22,400 Floridians had been helped as of March — just 20 percent of all who applied and the lowest percentage of any state. Estimates of the total number to receive assistance by the program's end in December 2017 have plunged from the original 106,000 to just 39,000.
"After five years, Hardest Hit Fund Florida still has half of their HHF funds despite Florida homeowners experiencing critical need,'' according to the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.
The Treasury Department must adopt a "sense of urgency'' to ramp up the effectiveness of Florida's assistance in the remaining two years, the report added.
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson asked Inspector General Christy Romero to investigate the Florida program after a 2013 Tampa Bay Times story revealed that the state had spent some of its $1 billion in Hardest Hit funds on felons and tax cheats while denying aid to thousands of people.