PHILADELPHIA, February 17, 2012 – – In reaction to a report released by RealtyTrac on Thursday indicating that foreclosures in Pennsylvania have risen 24 percent since January 2011, state Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Phila./Montgomery) said that immediate aid is needed to assist homeowners in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure.

“This is a crisis,” Hughes said.  “Too many families are losing their homes due to circumstances beyond their control.  Without proven programs, like HEMAP, I fear that the cycle will continue.”

Earlier this week, Senator Hughes joined with his Senate Democratic colleagues to call on Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly to use funds from a $25 billion settlement to stave off foreclosures by reinstating HEMAP.

Pennsylvania is set to receive a significant amount of funding from a national settlement with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers as a result of an investigation of mortgage and foreclosure abuses by state attorneys general and bank regulators.  Under the agreement, Pennsylvania will receive $266 million with a direct payment of $69 million to the attorney general’s office.

Over the years, the Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) has assisted over 46,000 families throughout Pennsylvania; 85 percent of the homeowners who have received HEMAP loans remained in their homes long-term.

“This proven track record of success shows that Pennsylvania would be much worse off if HEMAP had never existed,” Hughes said.  “We must reinvest in this valuable program and keep families in their homes and communities intact.”

HEMAP was forced to close on July 1, 2011 after its funding was cut. Before its closure, HEMAP received annual funding of between $10 and $11 million for many years. HEMAP was not funded in Governor Tom Corbett’s 2012-13 budget proposal.

“With his budget proposal, Governor Corbett has done a great disservice to Pennsylvania’s lower and middle income families,  He is not planning to fund the mortgage assistance program and is proposing cuts to other critical programs and services these individuals have come to depend upon, especially in times of economic distress,” Hughes said.  “These families cannot tolerate more cuts.  We must make them our priority.”

“Without HEMAP, more empty houses will join an already depressed housing market,” Hughes said.  “There is a clear need for assistance. We need to use these settlement dollars for what they are intended – to help homeowners keep their homes and stabilize communities.

“It is imperative that this critical program be reinstated using these funds. I plan to continue working with my Senate Democratic colleagues to push for the reinstatement of HEMAP using these settlement dollars, as well as a permanent, long-term funding stream for this valuable program.”

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