The COVID-19 pandemic has created hardships and heartbreak for countless Americans since its surge in March of 2020. Many people lost their jobs and had to drain their savings to pay their bills and put food on the table. Many homeowners have been struck particularly hard during the past year. Many Hoosiers have struggled to pay the mortgages on their homes. United Way of Porter County has been there to help many through these uncertain times.
The Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) is a government program that was created in the wake of the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis to help Americans pay their mortgages to prevent their homes from going into foreclosure. The program has helped many Americans over the years, but with the COVID-19 pandemic striking Porter County particularly hard, United Way of Porter County has been hard at work helping those who need it most to save their homes. Kim Olesker, President and CEO of United Way of Porter County, finds joy in helping people who need it the most.
“The HFF can change people’s lives for the better,” Olesker said. “We’ve seen too many cases of it in the past year: someone has lost their job, or their spouse has had their hours cut drastically due to the pandemic. Nobody should lose their homes because of this virus. It’s our job to help them and educate them on the options available to them that will help them immensely.”
The program has seen some growth due to the pandemic. Olesker and her team have helped dozens of Hoosiers weigh the options available to save their homes.
“You look at Northwest Indiana, and there have been quite a few people who work in manufacturing,” Olesker said. “They’re making a great salary and then, all of a sudden, the plant closes. They’re out of a job, the government shut them down due to COVID-19. Things have happened to our workforce that were completely out of their control. The HHF will help them with payments while working reduced hours or completely out of a job, then once they are back on their feet, there’s another program that will help them catch up with the payments they weren’t able to make during that rough time.”
Small business owners were among those who were hit hardest during the pandemic. The uncertainty of the pandemic has resulted in the uncertain futures of many small businesses, restaurants in particular, but there is hope for them too through HHF and other community programs.
“HHF can be especially helpful for gig-workers and those self-employed,” Olesker said. “We are here to help, and we want to make sure residents are getting the help they need.”
The HHF program is just one of many programs that United Way of Porter County supports in Northwest Indiana. Annually, they support a network of more than 200 nonprofits providing a variety of services for residents, from food and housing programs to childcare and hospice care.
The HHF was supposed to end in Spring of 2020, due to its funding from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) fund signed by President Bush in 2008, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, funding was extended to help Americans in need. So far, around 300 applicants have asked for help from United Way of Porter County and the number continues to rise. Through HHF, Olesker and her team have helped almost 30 families keep their homes thus far.
“We want residents to keep their family safe and warm to weather this pandemic,” Olesker said. “When you think about it, we’re working on saving the whole neighborhood.”
If you are interested in the Hardest Hit Fund, please go to https://www.unitedwaypc.org/Hardest-Hit-Fund, or call at (219) 262-0048.