Michigan State University Extension educator Jean Lakin would like to bring a great resource to the attention of Extension educators across the state. The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), one of our partners in the Financial Housing and Energy work group, part of the Greening Michigan Institute, has a program that benefits citizens across Michigan who struggle with underwater mortgages and unemployment.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury established the Hardest Hit Fund to provide targeted aid to families in states hit hard by the economic and housing market downturn. Michigan received $498.6 million in Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds to operate the Hardest Hit Funds program. In July 2010, Michigan was the first state to award and disburse Hardest Hit Funds. The MSHDA oversees the distribution of the funds in Michigan. The Hardest Hit Funds program operates under the name Step Forward Michigan Program.
Extension educators can direct clients needing assistance to apply online at http://www.stepforwardmichigan.org/. More than 25,000 Michigan homeowners have initiated an application. If financial literacy is outside your normal area of expertise, feel free to refer to Jean or one of her colleagues on the Financial, Housing and Energy work group.
The Step Forward Michigan website also offers a toolkit for partners to help get the word out to homeowners about the program through the use of the program’s logo, Web ads, posters and cards, newsletters and social media posts. Any educator can use the kit.
Jean said, “We currently have MSHDA-certified housing counselors in Macomb, Washtenaw, Lapeer and Ionia counties. However, Step Forward Michigan is an excellent resource for Extension educators in any institute in any county to provide to residents as we know the economic and mortgage crisis has impacted all of us.”
Jean co-leads the Financial Housing and Energy work group with Extension educator Terry Clark-Jones. Extension Health and Nutrition Institute educators Christine Venema and Brenda Long are also involved in the Step Forward Michigan initiative.
In related news, a national foreclosure settlement will allow the MSHDA and MSU Extension to expand our financial education and counseling services for homeowners trying to avoid foreclosure or those who may have recently gone through foreclosure. We’ll have more information on this opportunity in the future.