Garner: Community

Unemployment, foreclosures targeted at ‘boot camp’

The recession may technically be over, but home loans and unemployment remain issues for many in the country, the state and the town. So local government has co-sponsored an event for those still struggling.

The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency and Professionals in Transition will partner with the town to help residents of Garner and surrounding areas with career and finance issues on Tuesday – free of charge.

In particular, the NCHFA will explain the N.C. Foreclosure Prevention fund, which has already assisted more than 1,500 homeowners in danger of losing their homes in Wake County, including 106 in Garner. Meanwhile, Professionals in Transitions will offer a Job Search Boot Camp.

The event at Garner Performing Arts Center will include two sessions, one from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and another from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

“The Town of Garner is proud to spearhead this initiative,” said Mayor Ronnie Williams. “Although this state has been faced with economic hardship, the town of Garner is committed to helping our citizens sustain employment.”

The Foreclosure Prevention fund provides no-interest loans of up to $36,000 over three years as part of a federally financed program.

To qualify for the loans, homeowners must owe no more than $300,000 in mortgage loans on their primary residence and endure a financial hardship, such as a no-fault loss of employment or income, serious illness, or loss of a breadwinner through divorce or death. The temporary financial hardship – or honorable discharge from the military – must have occured after Jan. 1, 2008.

An acceptable mortage payment history before the hardship and legal U.S. residency are also required, as is a demonstrated ability to resume payments after three years of assistance.

Statewide, NCFHA says it has approved applicants of more than 15,000 homeowners to help with loans on property with total value of $2.1 billion, $291 million of that in Wake County, an average of about $200,000 per home saved from foreclosure.

The state administers the program while the federal govermnent funds it. All funding must be used by mid-2015, and funding remains to help about 5,000 more homeowners.

While NCFHA focuses on holding families over after lost income, program leader Damian Birkel will aim at getting income back. The Career Counselor and founder of Professionals in Transition will help attendees identify and market their strengths, among other job search skills.

While the national unemployment rate has dipped to 6.6 percent and North Carolina’s to 6.9, many economists and new Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen have de-emphasized the statistic, which can be misleading, because it discounts any who have given up searching for a job but who may want one.

The labor force participation rate has continued to dip through the recesssion, and now sits at 63 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the lowest since the late 1970s. Before the recent recession, that rate had oscilated mostly between 66 and 67 percent since the late 1980s.