Rep. Nasif Majeed (D), NC-Mecklenburg, said based on his conversation with the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency's executive director, the agency is making the necessary changes to speed up the payment process.
"They're working on the problem," Majeed said. "They've made adjustments now."
An analysis of the program's newly published data dashboard reveals more than 25% of pending mortgage assistance applications are from the Charlotte area.
Since May, WCNC Charlotte has documented case after case where the state-run pandemic program has failed to quickly deliver mortgage help to desperate homeowners impacted by COVID-19 and 2023 started off with more of the same.
Sandra Carpenter and her husband Jack Lester of Kings Mountain continue to wait for a decision on their application.
"You love the house that you're in," Lester said worried. "You want to keep it."
Lester, a pastor, said COVID-19 sickened him in 2020, hospitalizing him for three months and leaving him unable to preach or work his security detail. Carpenter said the pandemic also limited her security job.
"It really humbles you, because you have to get in line to get boxes of food or call these organizations to try to ask them to help you pay your power bill," she said. "I can see why people do end up in homeless."
Carpenter said she applied for mortgage help through the NC Homeowner Assistance Fund last May and continues to wait for her first payment, all as the past due amount she owes on her home mortgage has grown to almost $8,000.
"I just really want to have faith that they're going to come through," Carpenter said. "They just told me to be patient with the process."
The latest data show the program has reached a milestone, finally at the point where most households that applied have received their money. However, as the number of pending applications continues to decrease, foreclosure notices are starting to arrive and thousands of households are still waiting for their payments.
The state's contractor, Innovative Emergency Management, has since hired 13 additional case managers to help speed up the debt verification process.
"IEM is focusing on (the oldest) applications to get people who have been waiting the longest through the process as quickly as possible, and if approved, into payment," North Carolina Housing Finance Agency Marketing and Internal Communications Manager of Public Relations Connie Helmlinger said. "We expect to see these numbers continuing to drop with the hiring of more case managers to assist with debt management and IEM's focus on aged files."
According to NCHFA, the number of applications over 100 days has drastically dropped since December 1. The agency has also started releasing partial payments to speed up the process.
"What that refers to specifically are people who have applied for more than one type of assistance, such as mortgage reinstatement and HOA," Helmlinger said. "In the past, both entities would have to provide the debt verification before any payment would go out, but now we are paying each entity as the debt is verified. So if the mortgage debt has been verified, we can go ahead and pay that without waiting for the HOA to respond."
WCNC Charlotte has since shared Carpenter's information with the state in hopes a little push will helps move things along, but in the midst of her own troubles, her faith has her thinking of those even less fortunate.
"My heart really does go out to other people, because I know they're struggling a lot more than we are," she said. "They've actually probably lost homes."