MESA, Ariz. — When the COVID-19 pandemic took over, it hit a lot of families in Arizona hard, including Mesa father of five, Rhonald Durham.
As the pandemic raged on, Durham found that he was unable to continue paying his mortgage.
“I have never been in that situation before," said Durham. "I’ve always been able to pay the bills. It got really stressful. It was hard, really hard."
Desperate to keep his young family stable, the busy Valley dad started looking for help.
"Work got slow, got hard to pay bills, you know," Durham said. "I actually fell into pre-foreclosure.”
However, things started looking up when Durham found the Arizona Homeowner Assistance Fund.
The Homeowner Assistance Fund was created to support Arizonans who have fallen behind in their mortgages because of COVID-19.
“I had to stay persistent because I was running out of time really," he said. "I kept just hitting them up and they were all really helpful every time I called. I called almost every day.”
Since the program started in January, there are still millions of dollars in assistance unused.
“We had about $197 million to disperse to Arizona families who are behind in their mortgages," said Tom Simplot, the state's housing director.
Simplot added they've helped thousands of Arizona families since January, but they’ve only spent about $14 million in the program, leaving more than $180 million to support Arizonans who qualify.
“If someone finds themselves in a position of being behind in their mortgage, or their utilities, their HOA, their property taxes that’s what this program is for,” Simplot said.
Simplot's department said there are a number of reasons why it’s been a challenge to hand out the money. It could be because many homeowners refinanced to save, or maybe they sold their homes and cashed out.
Either way, millions of dollars are still available through the mortgage assistance fund and other states across the country are having similar experiences.
The Department of Housing said as of 2021, more than 33,000 mortgages are in forbearance and 83,000 are in delinquencies in Arizona. It's a program Durham said he's grateful he found.
“Just major relief, you know. I couldn’t thank them enough," he said. "I told them I wish I could do something to thank you guys.”
Arizonans' who think they might qualify should check out the program. It's set to run until the money runs out.
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