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Paying the Price of Service Cuts in Pennsylvania

A blog post by Chris Lilienthal, originally published at Third and State.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center launched a new series today featuring stories of Pennsylvanians impacted by five years of state service cuts.

The first installment looks at the demise of the Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) after it was cut deeply in the 2011-12 budget and how it nearly cost a Western Pennsylvania woman her home. Check out the full story below and keep up with all the stories in the coming days and weeks at our Facebook page.

Judy earned a modest income from her clerical job until an unexpected health problem hit. She needed to work to pay her mortgage, but her doctor and physical therapist told her she had to take time off to recover. Judy, who lives in Allegheny County, went five months without income and fell behind on her mortgage payments. She faced the awful prospect of losing her home.

The Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) was designed to help Pennsylvanians like Judy. It provided short-term, low-interest loans to help homeowners continue making mortgage payments after losing their job or having their work hours cut through no fault of their own. Once the homeowners regained their financial footing, the loans were repaid. Over 28 years, the program helped more than 46,000 families stay in their homes, according to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (which administered the program).

When Judy turned to HEMAP for help, she hit a wall. Funding for HEMAP was cut so deeply in the 2011-12 state budget (by $8.5 million or over 80% from the previous year) that the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency had no choice but to shut HEMAP down in July 2011.

Fortunately for Judy, a federal program modeled on HEMAP helped her save her home. But like HEMAP, the federal mortgage help is no longer available. For now, Pennsylvanians are on their own if they lose their job and fall behind on mortgage payments, making it likely that Pennsylvania’s foreclosure rate will continue to remain high.

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