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SC program aims to help homeowners set back by the pandemic

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The SC Housing and Finance authority is launching its SC Homeowner Rescue Program (HRP) – a $145 million assistance program funded through the U.S. Treasury – over the next few weeks. Its aim: to provide the same kind of assistance to homeowners that the agency’s SC Stay Plus program has done for renters.

That is to say, SC Housing will be looking to help South Carolina homeowners who’ve experienced pandemic-era disruptions that have led to backed-up mortgage payments, utility bills, and/or property tax payments.

SC Housing spokesman Chris Winston says HRP does not require anyone to show that COVID itself has caused them financial distress, just evidence that the pandemic has led to some kind of financial disruption for a household. That means job loss, cut hours, downsizing, or loss of income due to how the pandemic has affected someone’s job.

The only restrictions to getting assistance, Winston says, are that a homeowner must own in South Carolina, the property must be that homeowner’s primary residence, and the funds need to be earmarked for missed mortgage payments, overdue utility bills, or lapsed property tax payments.

There also is an income limit for assistance – either 150 percent of your area’s median income or 100 percent of the national area median income (which is $79,900 per household) – whichever is greater.

There is a calculator and full information, plus registration, available at SCHousing.com/SC-Homeowner-Rescue.

Something Winston hopes for is that people who might not be eligible for assistance will recommend HRP to friends, family, and neighbors who might be struggling with some bills because of COVID disruptions.

To get the word out, SC Housing is not relying solely on the internet. Winston says the agency learned during the rollout of SC Stay Plus that much of South Carolina still has online access problems. So the agency will have a call center set up at (803)702-5222, with extended hours; it will also conduct community-level outreach through community organizations and partnerships, as well as reach out through mortgage servicers to find out who might have had trouble paying a mortgage over the past two years, Winston says.

SC Housing is paying particular attention to rural counties, where Winston says homeownership rates are often higher than in cities. But he adds that pandemic volatility has affected rural areas hard, and even people who have already paid off their homes might be seeing their property tax bills or utility bills piling up.

Winston does not have specific numbers on how many South Carolina homeowners could benefit from HRP, but says the number is likely “in the thousands.”

Scott Morgan is the Upstate multimedia reporter for South Carolina Public Radio, based in Rock Hill. He cut his teeth as a newspaper reporter and editor in New Jersey before finding a home in public radio in Texas. Scott joined South Carolina Public Radio in March of 2019. His work has appeared in numerous national and regional publications as well as on NPR and MSNBC. He's won numerous state, regional, and national awards for his work including a national Edward R. Murrow.