The CNMI has been allocated $4 million that it can disburse to help homeowners keep up with rent or mortgage payment under a Homeowners Assistance Fund program.
This funding is part of the $40 billion that the federal government is providing under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. “These funds includes rental and mortgage assistance to help homeowners recover and not lose their homes,” said Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig during his public presentation of the ARPA spending plan early this month.
In the CNMI, the Northern Marianas Housing Corp. will facilitate the distribution of these funds to eligible homeowners to assist in mortgage payments to prevent late payments, delinquencies, eviction and foreclosure.
NMHC deputy corporate director Zenie P. Mafnas said that ARPA allotted $4 million to the CNMI for the Homeowners Assistance Fund. “We will be facilitating the HAF program for the CNMI. The Secretary of Finance will be the authorized official for the funds since the funds are under the ARPA program. We want to ensure proper tracking of all ARPA funds through the [DOF],” she said.
“…we hope to move to the next steps within a week or so. …There were few clarifications being addressed by the Department of Finance as requested by the U.S. Treasury [Department],” she added.
Mafnas said the HAF funds are available for specific types of qualified expenses to prevent homeowner mortgage delinquencies, mortgage defaults, mortgage foreclosures, loss of utilities or home energy services, and displacements of homeowners experiencing financial hardship.
“These are mortgage payment assistance, financial assistance to allow a homeowner to reinstate a mortgage or to pay other housing-related costs related to a period of forbearance, delinquency or default, mortgage principal reduction, including with respect to a second mortgage provided by a nonprofit or government entity, and facilitating mortgage interest rate reductions,” she said.
“Also included is payment assistance for first, homeowner’s utilities, including electric, gas, home energy, and water. Two, homeowner’s internet service, including broadband internet access service, as defined in 47 CFR 8.1(b) (or any successor regulation). Third, homeowner’s insurance, flood insurance, and mortgage insurance. Fourth, homeowner’s association fees or liens, condominium association fees, or common charges. And lastly, down payment assistance loans provided by nonprofit or government entities,” she added.
As to who are eligible for the HAF, it is NMHC’ s priority to identify people experiencing the circumstances outlined by the ARPA. “…We do not have this number yet. We would need to contact banks, other lending institutions, and look into our database to gauge what the demand looks like for homeowner assistance. …We will definitely have an application and approval and disapproval process and we will publish when it’s all ready,” Mafnas said.