A publicly funded program to help South Carolinians avoid foreclosure is nearing the 6,000 mark. That was the message state officials relayed in a new status report on the S.C. Homeownership and Employment Lending Program, or SC HELP, which began in January 2011.

County breakdown

Charleston County

Number of homeowners: 396

Amount dispersed: $6.2 million

Berkeley County

Number of homeowners: 264

Amount dispersed: $3.9 million

Dorchester County

Number of homeowners: 219

Amount dispersed: $2.7 million

Source: S.C. HELP

Through July, the program has helped 5,876 eligible South Carolina homeowners, with a total of $72.7 million in aid dispensed, officials said.

In the tri-county region, Charleston County leads the charge with the most homeowners to tap into the program.

Through July, a total of $6.2 million was dispensed to 396 homeowners in the county, according to the agency’s data. The program’s report also comes as a new national data shows a decline in the state and Charleston region’s foreclosure rate.

The SC Help program was launched in 2011 with nearly $300 million from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and an initiative of the S.C. State Housing Finance and Development Authority.

It provides mortgage-payment assistance for homeowners who are falling behind on payments due to circumstances beyond their control. Those include conditions such as unemployment, underemployment, reduction in self-employed income, catastrophic illness and the death of a spouse or a divorce.

“Families keeping their homes is good for all South Carolinians and keeps our state’s neighborhoods and property values intact,” said Matt Rivers, director of SC HELP.

The state recently updated the SC Help website to what has been described as a more user-friendly format. The upgrade included the addition of six questions to help homeowners determine if they qualify for the help.

The state program’s report was released as the foreclosure and mortgage delinquency rate has been subsiding in the Charleston area.

Real estate information firm CoreLogic reported Tuesday that 2.94 percent of homes were in some form of foreclosure in the region in June, down from 3.84 percent for the same month a year ago.

Charleston region’s foreclosure rate for June outpaced South Carolina’s 2.66 percent rate and the 2.49 percent national average, the agency reported.

Also, CoreLogic reported 5.43 percent of mortgage loans were 90 days or more in arrears in June, down 1.33 percentage points from the same month a year earlier.

The region’s rate for June was lower than the 5.55 percent U.S. rate, but higher than the 5.22 percent rate for the state, according to the firm.

Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.