A publicly funded program to help South Carolinians avoid foreclosure has helped more than 1,100 residents in the Lowcountry.

State officials released a new status report on the S.C. Homeownership and Employment Lending Program, or SC HELP, which began in January 2011.

Through April 30, the program has helped 7,577 eligible South Carolina homeowners, with a total of $103 million in aid dispensed, officials said.

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

In the tri-county region, the program helped 1,132 homeowners and dispensed $21.7 million in funds to thwart foreclosure, according to data.

Locally, Charleston County leads the charge with the most homeowners to tap into the program.

Through April 30, a total of $10.3 million was dispensed to 396 homeowners in the county, according to the agency's data.

SC HELP 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.

The program 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.

On a related note, a new report shows the foreclosure rate for the Charleston region continues to decrease. Real estate information firm CoreLogic reported last week that outstanding mortgages classified as being in foreclosure were 2.05 percent of all property loans in the Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville area in March. That was down from 3.3 percent in March 2013 and 4.05 percent in March 2012.

The local area's foreclosure rate remains higher than the averages for South Carolina and the U.S., which for March were 1.84 percent and 1.86 percent, respectively.

Also, CoreLogic said delinquent home loans continue to fall in Greater Charleston. About 4.5 percent of mortgages in the area were 90 days or more behind in February, down from about 5.96 percent a year earlier.

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