Retirement nest eggs, children’s college funds, rainy-day savings, valuable equity in a home — many South Carolinians have worked their entire adult lives to build these critical financial safety nets.

But due to the lingering effects of the recession, most notably continued unemployment and underemployment, many hard-working people who are responsible homeowners and have been for years are concerned about paying their mortgages and are often using every bit of savings to try and keep their homes.

Fortunately, in South Carolina we don’t believe that unforeseen, catastrophic economic events that are beyond a homeowner’s control should cost them their homes or savings.

Many of these homeowners — our friends, neighbors, and even families — could be eligible for financial assistance through the South Carolina Homeownership and Employment Lending Program (SC HELP).

Launched in early 2011, SC HELP is a foreclosure prevention program backed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the S.C. State Housing Finance & Development Authority.

SC HELP has already assisted over 5,000 homeowners in our state, helping to keep their mortgages from slipping into default or foreclosure.

Financial aid through SC HELP has provided a lifeline for our state’s families, communities and economy.

It is important to understand that the effects of widespread foreclosure are far-reaching: Families are stressed and displaced; homes are left vacant, potentially resulting in increases in crime and a devaluing of surrounding homes; tax revenues used to support our schools and critical services are negatively impacted.

It is imperative that we, as citizens of South Carolina, support the work SC HELP is doing to slow the tide of preventable foreclosures in our state. Support begins with understanding who qualifies and what kind of assistance is available through the program.

In order to apply, homeowners must be faced with at least one of the following qualifying hardships: Unemployment, underemployment, reduction of income for self-employed, death of a spouse, catastrophic medical expenses, divorce.

Available assistance includes:

Reinstatement assistance: Helps to bring the loan current.

Monthly payment assistance: Assists homeowners with monthly payments for a period of time while they seek employment and return to self-sustainability.

Transition assistance: Provides funding to assist families as they transition from homeownership in cases where the mortgage cannot be salvaged and the homeowner is able to negotiate a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.

If a neighbor, co-worker, employee or even a family member is facing one of these hardships and struggling to keep up with their mortgage, it is imperative that they immediately begin the SC HELP application process.

Lenders begin the foreclosure process quickly and SC HELP can most benefit homeowners who seek assistance before the foreclosure process begins.

While SC HELP cannot help everyone, even homeowners who don’t qualify for funds through the program can find local resources, agencies, assistance and tools for their individual situations at

Responsible homeowners all over South Carolina have worked hard all of their lives to support their families, and in turn,

SC HELP is available to provide eligible homeowners with assistance that keeps families in homes and neighborhoods, communities and savings accounts intact.

For more information or to start an application, go to

Homeowners without Internet access may call toll free at 855-435-7472.

Valarie M. Williams is executive director of the South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority.