New York has started accepting requests for a new $ 539 million fund to help homeowners who have fallen behind on mortgage payments and are at risk of losing their homes due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Those unable to make mortgage payments or pay property taxes, or water and sewer bills due to financial hardship related to the pandemic can apply for government grants of up to $ 50,000 per household through the new State Landlord Assistance Fund.

New York housing officials say about 1.7 million homeowners in the state are potentially eligible for the program.

To be eligible, applicants must have a family income equal to or less than the median income in the owner’s county. In central New York City, the median income is $ 79,900 for a household of up to four people.

Homeowners won’t have to repay the grants as long as they stay in their home for at least five years after receiving the money, according to the New York State Homes and Community Renewal Agency, which administers the program.

Otherwise, government assistance may be repayable if the owner sells, refinances, or transfers the property within five years.

To qualify for mortgage assistance, homeowners will need to provide a notice of default from a mortgage company, land tax authority, or similar institution.

Exceptions are available for those who are up to date on their mortgage but unemployed, and for those who have changed their mortgage since January 2020 but can no longer afford the payments.

The money comes from the US $ 1.9 trillion bailout law approved by Congress and enacted by President Joe Biden in March. The plan aims to help the country’s economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

New York is the first state in the country to receive approval from the US Treasury Department to distribute the money set aside to states to establish a Homeowner Assistance Fund.

Governor Kathy Hochul said the State Homeowners Assistance Fund is set up to try to help people in rural communities, communities of color and immigrant communities who disproportionately feel the pain of the pandemic.

To help reach people in historically disadvantaged communities, the state has set up a website and call center to help applicants in 10 languages ​​in addition to English. The state is also working with 23 nonprofit housing agencies to help raise awareness of the program.

There are three ways to apply. Here’s how:

  • Submit an online application at nyhomeownerfund.org, the state’s official application portal.
  • Apply by phone. Contact the New York State Homeowner Assistance Fund at 1-844-77-NYHAF (844-776-9423). The operators will help you submit a request. The call center is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
  • Apply with the help of a housing counselor through a designated nonprofit housing organization in each of the counties of New York City. In Onondaga County, the Home HeadQuarters nonprofit group will assist homeowners with inquiries. You can email the head office at [email protected] or call (315) 474-1939 for assistance.

The state has compiled a list of the documents you will need for the application and provided answers to the most frequently asked questions about the program.

State officials are warning potential applicants against scammers trying to take advantage of the new program by offering to help homeowners with their claims by charging incidental fees.

“There are crooks already,” said Dina Levy, spokesperson for Homes and Community Renewal. “Anyone who is asked to pay money to participate in this program or transfer an act, it is most likely a scam. “

New York Attorney General Letitia James said his office has put in place a new mortgage execution unit to ensure federal pandemic money goes where it’s needed and protects homeowners. fraud.

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