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Economy and Business

Time is running out for Save the Dream Ohio
Homeowners have until Wednesday to apply for mortgage assistance, and many who did not qualify before could be eligible now

Kabir Bhatia
Changes in the rules for the Save the Dream program mean many people who could not previously get assistance may qualify now; the deadline is this Wednesday
Courtesy of Kevin Niedermier
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In The Region:
The Save the Dream Ohio program winds down this week after four years of helping struggling homeowners. But, as WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia reports, there's still time to register before Wednesday’s deadline.
Time is running out for Save the Dream Ohio

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Save the Dream Ohio (888-404-4674) has about $80 million left to distribute in federal foreclosure-prevention funds. The average person gets about $16,000 to pay off liens or up to 18 months’ worth of mortgage payments. Homeowners do not have to be delinquent, just have a hardship such as medical expenses or job loss.Antoinette Smith is a housing counselor with non-profit Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People – or ESOP -- in Cleveland. She says keeping people in their homes is good for neighborhoods, good for the economy, and good for peace of mind.

“A lot of people take pride in their homes and worked hard to obtain it.  And because of no fault of their own -- such as job loss -- we feel it would be unfair to have them lose their home while they're still actively seeking employment, sometimes for a year or more.”

The process
“We assess their situation.  Programs that Save the Dream offers include ‘lien elimination,’ if the loan amount is below a certain threshold, we would ask the state to pay that off.  There is ‘rescue assistance,’ where we give the funds to make a mortgage current if it's past due.  “Mortgage payment assistance’ is where the state would actually make the mortgage payment for them for a minimum of 6 months, and a maximum of 18 months.”

Where are most of the homeowners coming from who need assistance?  Smith says she sees "them from all sides -- East, West, we assist in all different counties.  People come in, but we also do phone intake. If you're out of our area, we can still service you.”

New rules mean new help
Additionally, some people who did not qualify in the past, may be able to get help now.
“They were asking for a lot of documentation; some things that some people couldn't get [if] the hardship was a few years ago. Of course, they wanted something from their employer [but] that employer may not even be around anymore. So the state recognized that and changed some of their program guidelines.”

Where to go
Antoinette Smith with ESOP says anyone who might need help should call the agency by Wednesday at 877-731-ESOP. Applications must at least be started by then, but don’t have to be completed until July 31.
Homeowners closer to Akron can also stop into Mason Elementary (700 E. Exchange St.) tonight, tomorrow night or Wednesday night for assistance in signing-up.

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