By Megan Poinski
The Board of Public Works approved $350,000 on Wednesday to give a last push to advertising the Maryland Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program.
The state received $36 million in federal funds to give out as loans to people who are in financial trouble and unable to pay their mortgages. They have a very short window to use that money – between April 2 and Sept. 30, said Clarence Snuggs, deputy secretary of the Department of Housing and Community Development. If the funds are not used by the end of the month, they go back to the federal government.
Snuggs told the Board of Public Works that the state is hoping to give 1,274 households federal loans to keep them from defaulting on their mortgages by the end of the month.
“Our goal is to serve about 1,300 Marylanders and keep them in their homes, which will stabilize their personal finances as well as their communities, which are negatively impacted,” Snuggs said.
The financial injection to the state’s current contract with Media Works, LTD, should help the department reach that goal, said Snuggs and executive director for the department’s communication office, Jacqueline Lampell. Media Works has been partnering with DHCD throughout the program, and Lampell said they have negotiated for better rates and chosen unique ways to get the message out – like advertising on boats floating near Ocean City, or showing information at the movie theatre before the main feature.
“The number of people hearing the message is clearly increasing by leaps and bounds,” Lampell said.
In the last five months, hits to the assistance program’s website have increased about 250%, and about 2,400 people have applied to get help. Snuggs said that about 40% of the applicants can take advantage of the program, and the average loan size is $32,000.
Additionally, board member Gov. Martin O’Malley chimed in, Maryland is itself seeing far fewer foreclosures. The number of foreclosures in Maryland is at its lowest level since April 2007, he said, displaying charts to show how well the state is doing at keeping people in their homes.