Polk County family says Homeowner Assistance funds are missing

Couple awarded funds for 18 mortgage payments facing foreclosure

Rofer Timan and Linda Govea were convinced their home had been saved when the Department of Economic Opportunity awarded Timan emergency funds to cover mortgage payments for 18 months.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rofer Timan and Linda Govea were convinced their home had been saved when the Department of Economic Opportunity awarded Timan emergency funds to cover mortgage payments for 18 months.

The award letter indicated the money from the State Homeowner Assistance Fund, or HAF, would be issued to their mortgage company on June 1 and continue “going forward,” but the money is missing.

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A preliminary review by News 6 found several residents have experienced similar cases where Homeowner Assistance funds paid by the DEO could not be accounted for.

Posts on the Homeowner Assistance Fund Help Group mentioned lenders including Mr. Cooper, Lake View Mortgage, Cardinal Financial, PennyMack Financial Services, and United Wholesale Mortgage LLC.

United Wholesale Mortgage LLC holds Rofer Timan’s mortgage. The company said it could not find the money after News 6 asked the DEO to track the missing payments.

“They want their money, they’re talking about having an auction date ready,” a distraught Govea told News 6. “There’s a strong chance we are going to lose the house and we’re not going to have anywhere to go.”

The DEO assistance fund award letter dated July 13, 2022, said in part: “Payments will be made directly to your service provider and may process at different times.”

Govea contacted Make Ends Meet after attempts to get help from state lawmakers and the DEO hit dead ends.

On Wednesday, the mortgage company indicated they would have a resolution in 72 hours.

“We thought we were going to be saved,” Govea said. “We thought we were going to be able to recover and save up again and that’s not going to happen.”

The DEO assistance team launched an aggressive plan earlier this year to provide badly needed benefits to more than 12,687 homeowners.

According to the DEO, as of Aug. 26, the HAF program has already provided a staggering $342 million to pay mortgage and utility bills to the more than 12,000 Florida residents.

The funds helped avert roughly 56 active foreclosures.

“DEO is working hand-in-hand with homeowners directly and with mortgage lenders and service providers to ensure that payments are applied to the accounts of Florida homeowners who have been approved to receive assistance...” DEO Press Secretary Leigh McGowan told News 6. “Our outreach efforts have been tremendous, and we have received more Tier 1 applications than there is funding through Florida’s allocation. We’re trying to stretch these funds to assis as many Florida homeowners who have existing debts as possible.”

McGowan added that DEO has modified forward-looking payments from 18 months to six months to maximize the number of Florida residents who can be served by the HAF.

The DEO recently announced that forward-looking payments for new applications and those still pending “must be limited” to 6 months, instead of the current 18.

Applicants like Rofer Timan, who have already been approved for benefits, will not be impacted according to the DEO.

DEO Secretary Dane Eagle said the goal of the 6-month limit is to “ensure the greatest immediate needs for as many in need Floridians as possible.”

“We know that stretching these funds out to more Floridians means more Floridians get help securing their home and ultimately their financial and family stability,” Eagle said.

If you were invited to complete applications, Friday, Aug. 26, was the official final day to get your information into the system.

For residents who missed the deadline for mortgage and utility assistance, there may be funds available in some counties for income-eligible households. That information is available on the Florida DEO website.

If you have an unemployment issue, email makeendsmeet@wkmg.com or text the words “Make Ends Meet” along with your issue to 407-676-7428.

About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.