MEMPHIS, TN— There are millions of taxpayer dollars sitting and waiting to help the unemployed pay their mortgage.
"Keep My Tennessee Home" program has been around for two years, but many have never heard of it. The federally backed mortgage relief program has spent nearly $30 million in Tennessee to help about 2,000 homeowners.
The federal government gave Tennessee close to $220 million to help struggling homeowners. So far, the state has only spent about 13% of the money. Some say the program is a life saver, while others say it's wasting taxpayer money.
“Keep My Tennessee Home" is a program that helps the unemployed and under-employed pay their mortgage. People who qualify have to have a reduction in income and make less then $96,000 a year. If they qualify, they can receive up to $40,000 for up to 36 months.
"This is set up as a 0% forgivable loan and it is forgiven 20% every year for 5 years. If the family gets themselves stabilized, and they stay in the home, the loan is completely forgiven,” said Director of Public Affairs for the Tennessee Housing Development, Agency Patricia Smith.
The goal is to have your mortgage paid while you look for a job. Shelby County Commissioner Wyatt Bunker agrees sometimes these programs are needed, but says the government should not be involved.
"It's been said that the government is not a cow to be milked, it's a watchdog to be fed,” Wyatt Bunker told ABC24 News. “People in these social programs tend to take advantage of them and see how much they can get out of government and it creates dependency in government."
The mortgage relief program is part of the Tennessee Housing Development Agency. The money comes from the federal "Troubled Asset Relief Program" or TARP. Bunker says that's too much red tape.
"About 30% of those dollars are going to get to the people that need it while you build bureaucracies in all three levels of government,” said Bunker. “We have to stop using government like a super hero as though it’s supposed to solve all the social problems our country faces."
Whether you think it's a good or bad program, it has helped more than 500 homeowners in Shelby County. Mississippi has a similar program called "The Mississippi Home Saver Program."
If you would like to learn more about "Keep My Tennessee Home" there will be a public meeting Saturday December 15th at the Hickory Ridge Town Center at 6075 Winchester Rd. from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. You can also find more information in the "Find It" section and click on Mortgage Financial Help link.