South Carolina's high unemployment rate has prompted federal officials to put another $58 million toward a statewide homeowner rescue effort.
The program, called the South Carolina Homeownership and Employment Lending Program, or SC Help, hasn't started yet. But U.S. Treasury officials are funneling federal money into regions hardest hit by the economic slowdown, states where homeowners are not only struggling to find a job but also face losing their homes to foreclosure.
"We know there is a need locally for this funding," said Herb Allison, assistant Treasury secretary for financial stability.
The S.C. State Housing Finance and Development Authority will allocate the new money for housing programs that aim to put one-time grants, ranging from a few thousand dollars up to $36,000, in the hands of eligible homeowners.
Agency officials who proposed a series of homeowner rescue programs this year already have received $138 million in federal money for the program. Residents will be able to apply for the money starting in October.
It's unclear how many more homeowners will be able to get mortgage help because of the additional money. State officials originally estimated they could help up to 15,000 families.
"That's not nearly all the homeowners that could use the help, so another $58 million will bring us closer to that goal of helping all the responsible borrowers who are now behind" on their payments, housing authority spokesman Clayton Ingram said.
The state agency said it is putting together programs designed to help several types of borrowers, including homeowners who racked up debt while unemployed, homeowners who have good prospects of finding a job but need monthly assistance in the interim, and homeowners who can't get lower monthly payments through a loan modification or refinance because their property values have fallen.
The latest $58 million pool will combine with about $80 million that agency officials intend to steer toward out-of-work homeowners who need a few hundred dollars each month while they look for a job or work in jobs that pay too little.
Homeowners who qualify for that assistance could get, on average, $15,000 to put toward their mortgage during a two-year span.
Top officials in the Obama administration have gradually shifted their focus away from the broader $75 billion homeowner help program, called Making Home Affordable, which aims to refinance or reduce monthly payments for up to 4 million homeowners by 2012.
Instead, they're targeting money, now a total of $4.1 billion, toward states with shaky job markets.
The latest round of $2 billion went to South Carolina and 16 other states with higher unemployment rates than the rest of the country. Washington also qualified for $7.7 million.
South Carolina's monthly unemployment rate averaged 12 percent up until June, easily topping the nation's 9.8 percent rate average.
Separately, officials at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced a new program that will give out bridge loans for up to $50,000 to unemployed homeowners who are three months behind in mortgage payments but have a reasonable chance of finding a job.
Reach Katy Stech at email@example.com or 937-5549.