About 13 percent of eligible applicants have received help from the newly expanded program that provides partial reimbursement for losses taken by service members who sell their homes for military-related reasons.
As of Feb. 3, Homeowners Assistance Program officials had paid more than $54 million to 566 people, said Don Chapman, assistant HAP manager for the Army Corps of Engineers.
That represents almost 10 percent of the $550 million set aside to fund the program, launched Sept. 30. The Army Corps of Engineers expects to spend 48 percent of the HAP money this year, 69 percent by the end of fiscal 2011 and 95 percent by the end of 2012.
Defense officials also recently increased the number of people eligible in the permanent change-of-station category, extending the application deadline for those on PCS orders by nine months, to Sept. 30.
The average benefit per homeowner is $95,444, including the value of benefits such as cash reimbursement, purchasing a home or helping prevent foreclosure, Chapman said.
He said the processing of applications is speeding up now that new employees have training and experience. Employees weren't able to work as fast as initially expected on applications, in part because they were being swamped with phone calls from anxious homeowners, he said.
About one-third of the 6,432 applicants in the automated system have been found to be ineligible for assistance, Chapman said. To date, 4,221 have been determined eligible, and their applications are in various stages of completion.
The Corps of Engineers districts are trying to notify homeowners who are ineligible for assistance, many of whom bought their homes after June 30, 2006, the cutoff date set by law for the expanded HAP benefits, he said.
Others do not qualify because average home values in their counties have not declined by at least 10 percent, as required by Defense Department regulations, he said.
It remains to be seen whether more homeowners will be eligible after defense officials review the rules of the program and make revisions. The deadline for comments to the proposed rules published in the Federal Register was extended to Jan. 15, and officials are in the process of reviewing the comments.
If changes are made and some applicants previously ineligible are later ruled eligible, Chapman said, the Corps of Engineers districts will notify them.
Visit http://hap.usace.army.mil/">the Web site to see whether you're eligible. Chapman asks applicants to wait at least a month before calling to check on their application.