Bill Nelson requests federal probe of Florida's mortgage assistance program


After a Tampa Bay Times story last week shed light on Florida's Hardest Hit Fund, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is asking for a federal investigation into the mortgage assistance program. 

The Times' story reports tens of thousands of Florida homeowners are still waiting for help. The $7.6 billion fund was created by the Treasury Department to help homeowners in Florida and 17 other states avoid losing their homes during the recession. 

"Only 20 percent of the 116,000 people who have applied have received help, while nearly half of Florida's $1 billion share of Hardest Hit funds remains unspent," the Times reports. "If Florida fails to distribute the money by the end of 2017 — less than two years away — those funds will no longer be available." 

When Nelson requested a probe in 2013, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program found Florida "had consistently 'under-performed' other states in getting the money to desperate homeowners," the Times says. Now Florida is using $50 million of that money is funding down payments and closing costs for first-time homeowners in several counties. 

In a letter Thursday to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Nelson said he was concerned by a recent Times story that said tens of thousands of Florida homeowners are still waiting for help.

"In light of this report, and what appears to be continued mismanagement of this program," Nelson writes to U.S. Secretary Jack Lew, "I'm asking that you take a deeper look into whether the state is doing everything it can to meet the needs of all Floridians eligible to receive this assistance, and offer guidance as needed."