Author: Jessie Holmes
Update: As of November 2023, the NC Homeowner Assistance fund is no longer accepting new applications.
When Tommy Cloyd bought his house in 2009 outside Greenville, it needed a lot of work. For three months, his family helped fix and paint everything from the ceiling to the doors. That memory became especially precious after his father passed away in 2022.
“My dad put in a lot of work,” says Cloyd. “He used to do carpentry, painting, that sort of thing on the side. And I recently lost him last year in December. So it really means a lot more now because he touched it, you know.”
He’s also invested in modifications to make his home more wheelchair accessible. Cloyd was born with Cerebral Palsy and uses his wheelchair part time. But the life he built here was threatened when he was temporarily laid off from his job at a nonprofit where he helps other people with disabilities. During that year-long hiatus, caused by COVID-19, his bills began piling up.
“A lot of people don’t realize when you’re disabled, you have a lot more expenses than the average,” says Cloyd.
Help Available for Homeowners
In life and work, Cloyd is an expert at advocating for himself and others, so it wasn’t long before he learned about the NC Homeowner Assistance Fund. North Carolina established the program to help people experiencing financial hardships from COVID-19 by covering up to $40,000 in delinquent mortgage payments, or other homeowner-related expenses. It’s funded by $273 million in federal grants from the American Rescue Plan Act, a COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress in 2021. The North Carolina Pandemic Recovery Office disbursed the funds and works closely with the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, which administers the program.
“My advice is, if you’re in a hole stop digging,” says Cloyd. “The way I stopped digging was to reach out to the program.”
Since it was created, the N.C. Homeowner Assistance Fund has helped Cloyd and over 11,000 other people in North Carolina hold onto their homes.
“The economic ripple effect took a lot of different shapes, particularly job loss, business closures, and reduction in hours,” says Claudia Young, Manager of Compliance and Quality Assurance at the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency.
She says even though the state’s economy has recovered, some homeowners may just now be seeking help. One reason is because of the extended forbearance periods that mortgage companies offered, which paused or reduced payments for a limited time, offering temporary relief.
“So as homeowners came out of forbearance, the Homeowner Assistance Fund was really there to help with those permanent solutions to get homeowners back on the road to recovery,” says Young.
Eligibility and Application Process
To qualify for the program, homeowners must meet several eligibility criteria because the fund is intended to reach people most in need, typically in the low-to-moderate income bracket. Requirements include being at least 30 days past due on an eligible expense such as a mortgage, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, flood insurance, or homeowner’s association dues. The house must also be the applicant’s primary residence.
Homeowners can apply online at nchaf.gov or by calling 1-855-696-2423 to speak directly with a call support specialist. Once an application is submitted, it’s assigned to a case manager who works with the homeowner and any third parties such as mortgage servicers. Cloyd appreciated the opportunity to talk to a real person throughout his application process.
“It was a lot of information that had to be transferred, but it was really simple,” says Cloyd.
When Cloyd was approved, the NC Homeowner Assistance Fund made payments directly to his mortgage company to make his accounts current. The program does not pay homeowners.
Protecting Homes and the Lives Within
While a lot changed in Cloyd’s life after the pandemic, he’s back at work now and still gets to return to the same house in which he and his family put in so much work to turn it into a home. Near the front door sits a framed portrait of his late father, a Vietnam veteran, wearing his United States Air Force uniform. Cloyd’s dog plays outside in the yard. He urges other other homeowners impacted by COVID-19 to take the time to apply.
“I would just tell people, take the shot,” says Cloyd. “What do you got to lose?”