It can be one of the most stressful times in your life...the thought of losing your home. But, there is a program to help stop foreclosure in its tracks. News 13 brings you this follow up report on how one Panama City Beach family is keeping their home thanks to Florida's Hardest Hit Fund.
"It means a lot of love. A lot of good, good great times ...memories. It means a place for my kids to grow up…a home for them," those are thoughts of Panama City Beach residents David and Gwen Blanchard. Not long ago, their home was on the road to foreclosure.
Job changes for both of them back in 2008 meant income losses. Being able to pay their bills, including their mortgage, was tough. David Blanchard says, "We went through retirement, life insurance…selling a car…getting another one driving it selling it. On ebay. You name it we were doing it." Gwen Blanchard says, "it was a feeling of loss. Emptiness. Not knowing if one day to the next that we are going to get a knock on the door saying you have to be out."
Then in October of last year, they say a phone call to News 13 made a difference. According to David Blanchard, "We had been watching the news and you had done a segment on something...out of frustration she said we need to give Jerry a call."
We told the Blanchard's about Florida's Hardest Hit Fund. For those who qualify, the program, using federal dollars, helps with mortgages held by banks or mortgage companies. The fund is administered at the community development department in Panama City.
The Blanchard's applied for the fund last November. About two weeks ago, they crossed the final hurdle in getting the help. For the Blanchard's, it meant the prospects of being able to take care of the arrears built up on their mortgage.
And now, both with income from new jobs, there is optimism. Gwen Blanchard says, "Felt like there was hope...a light at the end of the tunnel." And, David Blanchard says, "yall were there for us. And we greatly appreciate it. I know my wife is greatly thrilled about everything." And they have advice for others. "Dont give up the fight…stay in there…stay in your homes fight tooth and nail."
The program for six counties in the panhandle is administered here at Panama City's Community Development Office. It is an easy process to find out if you qualify. We are happy for the Blanchard family and wish them all the best!
If you are interested the Florida Hardest Hit Fund, contact the Community Development Department in Panama City at 872-7230. If homeowners would like local assistance, to use the reference/referral code: 21072 on the HHF web site: Https://www.flhardesthithelp.org/.
Michael Johnson of the Community Development Department says, "We have had very little response from homeowners here in Bay County - the majority of applications received have been from outlying counties - Washington, Calhoun and Jackson."
This note to the story. One of Florida's U.S. senators doesn't feel the Hardest Hit Fund is reaching enough people. Senator Bill Nelson says he wants those in need to have more access to the federal dollars. He has called for an audit to make sure the program is working the best it can all across the state.