By Pfc. Daniel M. RangelMarch 13, 2009
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Soldiers who've had trouble weathering recent economic storms can look to various Army programs for help.
Those servicemembers can now take advantage of provisions included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 signed into law by President Barack Obama Feb. 17.
The federal government will cover up to 95 percent of a home's lost equity when forced to sell because of permanent-change-of-station orders. This provision will be funded by the Defense Department's Homeowners' Assistance Program and only applies to homes purchased before July 1, 2006, according to an Army News Service article dated Feb. 26.
Obama's stimulus package extends the HAP by $555 million, a program originally designed to assist Soldiers who have lost home equity and are forced to sell after an installation closure or realignment.
Soldiers who are not forced to sell but are having trouble making ends meet and have fallen behind on their mortgage payments (usually due to an adjustable-rate mortgage) can turn to Army Emergency Relief for help with a no-interest loan.
"We will call the mortgage company and see if it can be salvaged and pulled out (of foreclosure)," said Lynn Olavarria, Fort Bragg financial readiness program manager.
AER will help those who can reasonably be expected to get out, and stay out, of default.
"The mortgage company will set up what they consider a reasonable payment plan," Olavarria said. "(This will do) whatever it takes to get them back on track."
"It might cost $3,000 to bring the Soldier back to where he or she is on track - provided that Soldier qualifies," Olavarria said.
Olavarria stressed that not all Soldiers qualify. But this isn't because of lack of funds. AER is a well-funded private charitable organization.
"There is a surplus (of funds), which is based on a combination of contributions that Soldiers make, repayment of the loans that Soldiers get, plus return on investments," said Rodney Richardson, Fort Bragg financial readiness specialist.
AER can also help Soldiers and dependents who do make their payments on time, but are still evicted from their homes because their landlords have been foreclosed upon.
"If the landlord kicks them out, we'll help with the first month's rent and deposit for a new place," Olavarria said. She instructs Soldiers and their Families to "find another place and bring me a rental contract, at that point we will authorize a no-interest loan to help."
A change to the Joint Federal Travel Regulation, effective July 30, 2008, entitles Soldiers to an allowance for a local move at government expense.
"It's a Department of Logistics funding, but Soldiers have to get Department of the Army Headquarters approval prior to us executing the move," said Larry Hobbs, Fort Bragg transportation office supervisor.
"The Soldier would bring in a written letter expressing their circumstance and they would provide any type of foreclosure or eviction notification ... We would forward that," Hobbs said. "If (Department of the Army Headquarters) authorized it, they would come back and tell us."
Further information about Army Emergency Relief can be found at the Army Community Service Web site.
The local HAP field office in Savannah, Ga. can answer questions regarding the Homeowners' Assistance Program at (912) 652-5580 or go to their Web site at http://hap.usace.army.mil/homepage.html.