Florida Didn't Bother to Apply for $250 Million in Foreclosure Assistance Funds
Florida is ground zero of the foreclosure crisis. No other state even touches Florida when it comes to the number of foreclosures over the past decade. So you would figure that the Sunshine State's government would be first in line to take advantage of federal assistance programs meant to help regular Floridians.
You would figure wrong.
This past April, the U.S. Treasury Department announced $2 billion additional funding for the Obama administration's Hardest Hit Fund program. That fund is designed to help homeowners in the states hit hardest by the economic crisis.
Florida automatically received almost $78 million in additional funding, but it could have received much more if only state leaders had applied. It could have gotten as much as $250 million more, in fact.
The Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC), a state group whose board members are appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, is charged with dispersing the funds and are also to blame for not seeking the additional money. Florida was one of only five of the 18 states in the program that didn't apply for the extra funds.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the FHFC hasn't even bothered to come up with an explanation for why it didn't apply. It should be noted that Scott has a notable streak of not accepting federal funds from the Obama administration for ideological reasons (see Medicare expansion and high-speed rail for previous examples).
Florida has also had several noticeable problems with distributing the funds it has received from the program. As of 2015, Florida had distributed only 60 percent of its funds to citizens. The average in other states was 70 percent.
In fact, the Treasury Department late last year released a report highly critical of Florida's handling of the funds. The report showed that Florida had the lowest rate of accepting homeowners into the program. The report notes that 40 percent of applicants either dropped out of the program or were dropped by the program. That rate in other states was just 24 percent.
"The state's decision not to apply for this money is tragic for Florida homeowners who are fighting to keep their homes," Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said, according to the Orlando Sentinel.