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Mortgage Help Is Available

This month New York State has launched a new program to help homeowners who are struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The New York State Homeowner Assistance Fund (NYS HAF) is a federally funded program dedicated to assisting homeowners who are at risk of default, foreclosure, or displacement because of a financial hardship caused by the COVID-19. You can apply for assistance through a new portal that went live on Monday Jan. 3 at https://www.nyhomeownerfund.org. Funding for this program is limited, so it is highly recommended that homeowners prepare to apply as soon as possible.

Chautauqua Opportunities Inc. also has staff who are available to assist with submitting applications to HAF and provide foreclosure prevention counseling. Homeowners can reach out to Chautauqua Opportunities directly to schedule an appointment by calling a COI Navigator at (716) 366-8176 or (716) 661-8176. They highly recommend homeowners to call as soon as possible to set up an appointment.

The pandemic has also delayed the county tax foreclosure process for the last few years. At this time, we do not know if NY State will continue the moratorium on tax foreclosures in 2022. If the state does not extend the moratorium then the county will have a tax foreclosure auction this year. Usually if you owe more than two years of property taxes your property is placed in foreclosure. When the county forecloses on a property, ownership is transferred to the county. This usually happens around April 15. Next, the county sets a date for the sale of foreclosed properties, which usually happens in June. Please! DO NOT ASSUME that the property taxes owed are forgiven because foreclosures didn’t happen in 2020 and 2021. If you are behind in paying your property taxes, we urge you to contact the real property tax office today to find out how much you owe and what your choices are regarding repayment. While Chautauqua County Real Property does not have a payment plan, you can elect on your own to send payments monthly or bi-monthly to catch up past due tax balances. The sooner you get started the easier this will be, so call the Real Property Office in Mayville at (716) 753-4221 or e-mail them at cctax@chqgov.com.

OFAS helps many older adults every year who face foreclosure and other financial difficulties. We found that many people in these situations were not accessing tax assistance programs like STAR, Enhanced STAR, Veterans Exemptions and Aged exemption for people 65+. The STAR and Enhanced STAR Program are School Tax Relief programs for homeowners.

In addition, there are property tax exemptions for senior citizens, veterans exemptions, exemptions for people with disabilities and exemptions for agricultural properties. Be sure to check with your local assessor to see if you are eligible for any of these exemptions or if there have been changes and you need to reapply. Applications for these programs are usually due to the local assessor on or before March 1. You can also look these up online at tax.ny.gov/pit/property/star.

If you are an older adult having any kind of financial difficulty, I encourage you to call our NY Connects helpline (716) 753-4582 to see what other ways we can help save you money. While we do not have direct assistance to help with taxes, we can tell you about all the other programs available that help reduce insurance costs, pharmacy and medical bills or save on daily expenses. Saving you money in one area like prescriptions and healthcare, can free up money to pay your property taxes. HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program) helps pay heating bills and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) helps to pay for groceries for income eligible people. These federally funded programs are available to anyone who meets the eligibility requirements, but there are still many people in Chautauqua County who are still not accessing these programs. These are not welfare! Your hard work and all the taxes you have paid in the past fund these programs. People often tell me, I don’t want to take away this benefit from someone else. Everyone who qualifies for these federal programs will get the help. If you are eligible and don’t apply, the only one you are hurting is you.

For more information on any of the programs mentioned in the article or to find out about other services provided by Chautauqua County Office for Aging Services, contact our NY Connect Helpline at (716) 753-4582. Happy New Year and please stay safe!

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