Q. My wife and I have missed a few home mortgage payments this year, and we are behind in our property taxes. I heard there is a program that might help us out. Do you know anything about it? We don’t want to lose our home.

A. Yes. In California, the program is called the California Mortgage Relief Program, and it uses federal Homeowner Assistance Funds to help homeowners get caught up on past-due housing payments and property taxes. The great thing about the program is that it is absolutely free to participate, and if you qualify – believe it or not – you do not have to repay the funds! Its purpose is to help homeowners impacted by Covid 19 to catch up on their home related expenses, whether it be mortgage delinquencies or past due property taxes.

For those eligible, it provides grants of up to $80,000 to reinstate past-due mortgages on homes, condos or even permanently affixed manufactured homes, and grants of up to $20,000 to help pay delinquent property taxes.

Eligibility is determined as follows:

1) You must be behind on two or more mortgage payments as of June 30, 2022, and remain delinquent;

2) You must have fallen behind on property taxes before May 31, 2002, and they remain unpaid;

3) Your household combined income for all household members over age 18 must be at or below an amount which is 150% of the Area Media Income. This threshold is actually quite generous: to qualify in Alameda County, a single person household must have annual income that is less than $149,000, and for a two-person household, annual income less than $171,400.

4) You experienced a Qualified Financial Hardship related to COVID-19 after January 21, 2020: the hardship could have begun before that date, if it continued after that date. Hardships would include loss of income, medical expenses increased utility costs, food expenses, etc. The criteria is very broad. Note: documentation is not required to show a hardship. Applicants must verify hardship by signing statement as part of the application, so it is – in a very real sense – self certifying.

Even folks with reverse mortgages, who are potentially delinquent because they have missed property tax payments, can apply for relief under this program.

You can either apply online by going to the California Mortgage Relief Website, or by calling the Program Contact Center at 1-888-840-2594 for assistance, or for a referral to a HUD certified housing counselor. California is committed to making sure that all qualifying homeowners get full access to this grant program, and it is noteworthy that the application, itself, is available in 6 different languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tagalog.

Note: if you previously applied and were denied, you should reapply. Reason: in June, 2022, the Relief Program expanded its eligibility requirements and it now encourages applicants who were previously denied to reapply if they now meet the updated eligibility requirements. Further, there may be more eligibility expansions as of January 1, 2023. So don’t let a previous denial discourage you from reapplying.

Good wishes on accessing the program to catch up on your mortgage and property taxes.