South Carolina Homeownership and Employment Lending Program – SC HELP

Are YOU a Homeowner who is Facing Foreclosure Due to:

Unemployment,

Underemployment,

Reduction in Self-Employment Income,

Death of Spouse,

Catastrophic Medical Expenses, or

Divorce?

If so, there may be help for you via SC HELP, see SC HELP Flyer.

Monthly Payment Assistance:

  • makes monthly payments while you are seeking employment and a return to self-sustainability

Direct Loan Assistance:

  • pays up to $20,000 on past due mortgage to bring it current

Property disposition assistance:

  • provides $5,000 to help transition families from homeownership to rental housing if:

1. Application with SC HELP completed FIRST
2. Permission for short-sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure granted
3. Money distributed AFTER execution of deeds completed

South Carolina has been awarded, $295,431,000 in funding from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Hardest Hit Funds to prevent mortgage foreclosure.

SC Housing Corp., a non-profit Division of the South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority is administering the Program, known in SC as the South Carolina Homeownership and Employment Lending Program or SC HELP.

South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS) is one of the housing processing agencies for SC HELP.  SCLS assists homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure gather and submit the required documents to be approved for mortgage assistance through SC HELP.

The list of documents can be found here - SC HELP Required Documents List

There are no income requirements for SC HELP and all services are free to the homeowner.

SC HELP will not pay any more than $20,000 on the arrearages.

SC HELP may approve payment of the $20,000 but the actual payment will not be made until SC HELP has verification that the homeowner can pay the balance of the arrearages or that it has been forgiven by the lender or it has been placed at the end of the mortgage.

The requirements for the property disposition assistance program should be carefully reviewed.

NOTE: A homeowner is not eligible for this program if the property has already been sold at foreclosure.

Homeowners may call South Carolina Legal Services toll-free at 1-888-257-1988 Or 1-855-HELP-4 SC

Homeowners may also submit an application at www.SCMORTGAGEHELP.com

For more detailed information about SC HELP, please see Information Flyer

For more information about SC Legal Services, please see SCLS General Brochure

~RFW

Guess

What do Harvest Hope and SC foreclosures have in common?

If you guessed that South Carolina has seen a marked increase in foreclosures and requests for food have markedly increased, you win!

According to the Columbia Regional Business Report (CRBR):

South Carolina’s foreclosure rate from July to August 2009 was up 1.94%, reported national real estate tracking company RealtyTrac.com. That number is more than 78% higher than it was one year ago.

According to Harvest Hope:

In the first quarter of 2009, Harvest Hope experienced a 142%  increase in the number of families needing assistance.

Earlier today I attended a fundraiser luncheon for Harvest Hope. It made me focus on how the problems faced by so many living in poverty are faces of our neighbors, our friends, our loved ones.

The “featured” speaker at the luncheon was someone who had been working – two jobs. Two good, solid jobs. Then she got ill. Which started the medical bills and absence from work. Which caused her to lose her jobs. Both jobs. The bills kept coming. When it came to paying bills, she used her money for medical bills and medication. Then she lost her home. She stopped eating so much. That made her sicker. Then she found Harvest Hope.

She was able to eat.

The doctors are still trying to figure out what is “wrong” with her. In the meantime, she can eat. Without Harvest Hope and the necessary nutrition it provides, she would be even more sick.

While these societal problems may not be legal, I guarantee that the Legal Aid Telephone Intake Service (LATIS) has been referring people to Harvest Hope.

And once people have nutrition and can think about something other than an empty belly, then they may call LATIS for assistance with a problem with their Landlord. Or maybe for help with their Medicaid benefits. Or help with a way to escape their abusive spouse.

-RFW

8.24.09 Ask-A-Lawyer: Nosy’s Report

8/24/09 Ask-A-Lawyer Call Center at WLTX

8/24/09 Ask-A-Lawyer Call Center at WLTX

On Monday Night, WLTX became ground zero for ASK-A-LAWYER. We arrived in time to start and learned that the calls had started as early as 4:30 p.m. Once we were shown our call-center, we started answering phones “Ask-A-Lawyer, how may I help you?” while our web counter-parts began their online-duty.

Jeff Goodwyn answers questions at WLTX Ask-A-Lawyer

Jeff Goodwyn answers questions at WLTX Ask-A-Lawyer

The 6 on-camera attorneys were Cynthia A. Coker, T. Jeff Goodwyn, Edna Primus, Jennifer W. Rubin, Tana Vanderbilt and Robin F. Wheeler.

Cindy Coker, SC Bar Public Services Director

Cindy Coker, SC Bar Public Services Director

The phones were ringing non-stop. WLTX graciously provided us with water and chocolate; both of which were appreciated. Darci Strickland and Andrea Mock interviewed us during the session and helped us maintain our energy with their enthusiasm. And at the end of the evening, JR Berry dropped by to thank us for our hard work.

Edna Primus and Tana Vanderbilt field questions

Edna Primus and Tana Vanderbilt field questions

Caller Origin:

  • 18 of my 30 calls originated from Richland County;
  • 1 from Fairfield;
  • 1 from Florence;
  • 1 from Greenwood;
  • 2 from Kershaw;
  • 3 from Lexington;
  • 3 from Orangeburg; and
  • 1 from Sumter.

Mind you, I had 30 calls total in a 2 1/2 hour span and I even took a moment off the phones for an interview.

Caller Issues:

  • 6 questions about Divorce/Alimony
  • 5 Child Support/Child Custody and Visitation/Adoption
  • 4 Consumer Law including Bankruptcy
  • 3 Wills and Estates
  • 2 Employment
  • 2 Medical Malpractice/Health Care
  • 1 Social Security
  • 1 Landlord/Tenant
  • 1 Homeowners Associations
  • 1 Immigration
  • 1 Traffic Laws
  • 1 question about Taxes; and
  • 2 non-legal questions.

Ask-A-Lawyer also included the “web-chat” piece. Three attorneys (Peter M. Balthazor, K. Cameron Currie, and Jennifer L. Locklier) fielded web questions during the same time.

All in all, it was a busy time, but I enjoyed every caller and hope that they felt that they had received a worthy service from us. I will DEFINITELY do this again.

Thanks to SC Bar staff Deborah Morris who coordinates the event, Joey Heape who insures that the web equipment functioned properly, and Elizabeth Martin who popped in for a few photos.

And special thanks to our host station, WLTX. You helped us make this a success!

-NOSY WHEELER

LATE PS – I wish I had asked the name of the camera operator at our station because he was an absolute delight. When he saw us running out of water, he brought the new bottle to us. Thank you Camera Operator!

Tune In TONIGHT and Tomorrow Morning

The Big Picture is once again featuring a topic of interest to South Carolinians in the civil justice community. This week’s topic is The Working Poor.

For the program, Mark Quinn, the host of The Big Picture, interviewed prestigious guests such as Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, Sue Berkowitz of SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center and Dr. Adolphus Belk of Winthrop University.

TV Air Date: TONIGHT: Thursday – August 06, 2009 at 7:30 pm

Every Friday morning “The Big Picture on the Radio” airs on ETV Radio. Discussion focuses the television topic of the week amongst other timely subjects. Be sure to check ‘The Big Picture’ homepage each Friday afternoon to tune in live starting at 1:00 p.m.

TV repeats of Thursdays broadcast will air each Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and again on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.

-RFW

5 States Receive ProBono.Net Award

What do Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, and New York have in common?

Sounds like the start of a joke, but it’s not. If it were, they would be laughing all the way to the bank.

Instead ProBono.Net has awarded these five states’ legal services organizations developing innovative online document assembly projects through its NPADO Demonstration Project.  The projects address legal issues including foreclosure, criminal expungement and the needs of the Spanish-speaking community.

To read more, click here.

Congratulations!

-RFW

Follow-up: Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure

At the beginning of the month, guest blogger Lil Ann Gray, an attorney with the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs, wrote a post on the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act. It has been an extremely popular and timely post for the SC Access to Justice Weblog.

Well, today I saw that  HUD had submitted guidance on June 18, 2009. Here is the link to their guidance.

Additionally, the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs has been very proactive with their own guidance here. And, please take a few moments to check out their blog at http://consumer.thestateonline.com/. It has helpful tips for South Carolina consumers!

Thanks Lil Ann, the SC DCA, and HUD.

-RFW

And thanks to @eppink and @accesstojustice for pointing us toward this.

SC Appleseed in the NEWS!

Another SC Access to Justice Commissioner has news or should I say is IN the news today. Sue Berkowitz, the SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center Executive Director, was quoted in the prestigious Wall Street Journal.

Sue B - doing what she does best

The story? Numbers on Welfare See Sharp Increase. Excerpt from the story:

Twenty-three of the 30 largest states, which account for more than 88% of the nation’s total population, see welfare caseloads above year-ago levels, according to a survey conducted by The Wall Street Journal and the National Conference of State Legislatures. As more people run out of unemployment compensation, many are turning to welfare as a stopgap.

South Carolina is one of the “leading” states – in which welfare cases have increased from +10% to +30% over last year’s rates. Other states with sharp increases include California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, OhioOregon, and Washington.

~~~~~~~~~~

On another note, we noted that the SC Appleseed Legal Justice website has a new look too. And we like it!

-RFW

Friday Wrap 5.29.09

All the week’s “atj” newsworthy items wrapped up

Friday Wrap Friday Wrap

Texas – Texas Access to Justice Commission and Foundation Recognize Major Contributors to Texas Legal Aid

Chicago, Illinois - ABA Invites Obama to it Annual Meeting

Washington, D.C. – 2nd ABA National Conference on Employment of Lawyers with Disabilities (Hurry for the EARLY BIRD special because after June 1st the registration increases)

United States Supreme Court – President Obama nominates Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the U.S. Supreme Court (For more news links, click here. For blog coverage, click here.)

Brooklyn, New York - A Call for Pro Bono at Boro Hall

Lexington, Kentucky – Interview with a True Change Agent

Nashville, Tennessee – New Legal Advice Clinic to Help with Debt Issues

Richmond, Virginia - LINC Recognizes Outstanding Volunteers

Public Justice Center – Donor Inspires Us with $10,000 Gift 

Ventura County, California – New County Program Helping Low-Income Families Adopt

 Winston-Salem, North Carolina – Practical Paralegalism: Paying it Forward

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – Credit Card Reforms Could Help Statements

Fairfield, Connecticut – Hard Times Force People Into Family Court “Solo”

Honolulu, Hawaii – Starn O’Toole Marcus & Fisher Supports Access to Justice Commission

Australia – Pro Bono Work Good for Law Students

New York, New York – Pro Bono Recruitment Drive

San Diego, California – Law Made Public: Legal Research Class for the Self-Represented Litigant

-RFW

Lawyers Stepping Up to Help Families Keep Their Homes

You may have noticed that a couple of recent posts below reference the home foreclosure crisis.  With the growing number of foreclosures in South Carolina and across the United States it is no wonder the housing market is such a hot topic. 

One of the links referenced below is a story from NPR: Lawyers Make Pro Bono Leap into Foreclosures.  It is the story of a man named Mirkab.  Mirkab is a hard working man who ended up with two homes because just as his family purchased a new home and attempted to sell their old home, the market began to crash and they were unable to sell their second home.  Like many other hardworking Americans, Mirkab is trying as hard as he can to keep his finances in good standing, but battling with the mortgage lenders on his own was getting him nowhere.  The story highlights the generosity of lawyers who have responded to the mortgage crisis by doing pro bono work for clients like Mirkab.  With so many families in the same position as Mirkab’s family, we need even more lawyers to step up and take these cases.

According to the National League of Cities 1 in every 374 housing units were part of a foreclosure filing in April 2009.  Due to this insurmountable number, pro bono lawyers willing to tackle the mortgage crisis are desperately needed.  For attorneys who do not specialize in this area of law the learning curve is steep, so a number of organizations across the country are finding ways to make it easier for attorneys to step up and take on these cases.   At probono.net there are resources for attorneys interested in these pro bono cases including templates for legal documents and links to state specific resources.  The Pro Bono Institute reports that legal service programs are typically the only access to the legal system that the poor and those of modest means have.  Foreclosure cases are swamping their work load and pro bono help is needed to share the responsibility.

The Center for Responsible Lending created the Institute for Foreclosure Legal Assistance that awards grants to non-profits and legal aid offices that with adequate resources can help those suffering from the housing crisis.  The grants range from 250,000 to 300,000 and are dispersed over a 3 year period.

The housing crisis hits close to home for many South Carolinians.  The Post and Courier in Charleston, SC ran an article in February telling how Family Services, Inc. was awarded $1.7 million from the National Foreclosure Mitigation Council.  Recipients of the monies included Appleseed, South Carolina Legal Services and Charleston Pro Bono Services.  These programs and this type of funding certainly help to put a dent in the aid needed, but there is much more required if individuals are going to get the legal help they need.

As Robin posted below, the South Carolina Supreme Court lifted the TRO on foreclosures as of Friday.  The Order lifting the TRO  lays out specific steps that must be followed and items that must be included within the court documents to determine whether an individual mortgage qualifies for President Obama’s Home Affordable Modification Program.  The need for attorneys who are knowledgeable about the recent legislation and court orders dealing with the mortgage crisis as well as South Carolina Foreclosure law to take on these pro bono cases is great.  Thank you for all of those working so hard to work within the legal system to find solutions for those struggling with a home foreclosure.

-Allie

BREAKING NEWS: SC Supreme Court lifts TRO

BREAKING NEWS: South Carolina’s Temporary Restraining Order has been lifted

Earlier this month I added a post that the South Carolina Supreme Court had issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) suspending foreclosures on government mortgages.

As of earlier today, the Court issued a new Order lifting the TRO.

-RFW