Modest sum, big impact

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 6, 2007

Within a $20.7 billion state spending bill, a $1.5 million appropriation might seem such a tiny drop in the budget barrel it couldn’t possibly have much impact. But for some North Carolinians who’ve lost their jobs or been downsized, it will mean the difference between keeping a roof over their heads or being forced into foreclosure or a panicky sale of their most valuable asset.
The $1.5 million appropriation will help expand the Home Protection Pilot Program. The program, offered through the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, provides interest-free loans to make up to 18 months or $20,000 of mortgage payments for people who’ve suffered downturns in employment. The initial pilot 26 counties included Rowan, where the program is administered through the Salisbury Community Development Corp. Launched in the wake of the Pillowtex shutdown and other large-scale layoffs, the program has helped many laidoff workers continue their mortgage payments while retraining for new careers. More recently, it has done the same for dozens of downsized Freightliner workers who still have jobs but are working fewer hours. In addition to the state funds, the local program also has benefitted from a United Way contribution that has provided supplemental help with house payments for families who might be able to survive without a full-scale loan. As for the ongoing need for the program, the local office has received hundreds of inquiries since an article about it appeared in the Post in May.
Statewide, HPPP has helped more than 200 families pay their mortgages while they seek jobs or retrain for new ones, and another 300 homeowners have received foreclosure counseling.
With the additional funds approved in the state budget, the program will expand from 26 to 61 counties. Unfortunately, with continued rapid changes in North Carolina economic landscape, many more North Carolina workers hit by workplace transitions will likely need this program in the future. While the additional $1.5 million might not sound like much in the scheme of things, for displaced workers, it can make all the difference as they struggle to save their homes and rebuild their lives.