ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEM) — Starting Monday, January 3, those who have struggled to pay their mortgage because of the coronavirus pandemic can now apply for money to put towards their back payments.

Under the federal American Recovery Act, New York State has received $539 million to help those who are at risk of foreclosure or displacement to stay in their homes. Local organizations such as the Affordable Housing Partnership are now helping Capital Region residents apply for this money.

“What we are finding families are facing is that they either lost their job — they were in food service — everything closed down. Or perhaps they were receiving child support and the father of their kids lost income, and they can’t pay,” said Susan Cotner, Executive Director of the Affordable Housing Partnership in Albany.

To help relieve some of this financial pressure, applications are now being accepted for the Homeowner Assistance Fund. This can be done both online and over the phone.

“Generally, under the federal rules for the program, the goal is to get to folks who are behind on some type of housing payment. Whether it’s mortgage, co-op payments, property taxes, the goal is to try to get to those folks and try to get them help in becoming current on their housing payment,” explained Dina Levy, of the New York State Homes and Renewal.

The total amount given to each household would be no more $50,000. Those applying must also show proof that COVID-19 is the reason they are at least 30 days behind on their payments.

“For those who have been with a bank, let’s say in a forbearance agreement, which is a temporary pause on making mortgage payments, they should also apply for this program and not wait until they are delinquent,” said Levy.

Applicants who are in active foreclosure litigation will become a top priority. Those who haven’t applied, but are interested, are encouraged to do so sooner rather than later.

“It is kind of a first come, first serve situation that we have. The website is pretty user friendly. They’ve tried to work it out that you upload as few documents as possible in order to apply, because they can check other resources to confirm the income and your resident information that you are providing,” stated Cotner.

If the homeowner remains in their home for a period of five years, the loan will be fully forgiven.

To apply, head to the New York State Homeowner Assistance Fund website.

If a homeowner is being asked for money to apply, they should consider it a scam and call 1-844-776-9423.