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CONTACT 13: Hardest Hit Fund not getting to those hardest hit

Posted at 6:00 PM, Jan 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-11 22:47:34-05

Nevada's Hardest Hit Fund is supposed to be a temporary safety net to help people save their homes. 

But the fund is under fire once again as part of a nationwide report showing how those who needed help the most were often denied.

Nevada was among the hardest hit states during the recession and financial crisis. We got millions of federal tax dollars to help those facing foreclosure. 

And though many people did get help, a newly released government audit questions whether the program is truly effective in reaching those who were hardest hit.

This just-released audit by the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) shows Hardest Hit Funds have been slow to flow. 

Most of those who sought help but were turned away are folks who earned less than $30,000, and 1,293 of them were Nevada homeowners. 

But according to the audit, the data our state provided was old -- from 2015 -- so there may, in fact, be even more low-income Nevadans who were turned down.

Hairdresser Cheryl Barber was denied Hardest Hit Fund help.

"I jumped through all the hoops," she told Contact 13 in September.

SIGTARP says insufficient records from most states made it hard to determine why people were denied. But the agency believes it's an easy fix. 

The audit recommends getting rid of unnecessary eligibility criteria and allowing workers facing layoffs to qualify for help before they fall behind on their mortgage.

You may remember this isn't the first time Nevada's Hardest Hit Fund has come under fire. 

In September, Contact 13 reported on another SIGTARP audit which found widespread fraud, waste and abuse by the Nevada Affordable Housing Assistance Corporation. That's the company that administers the Hardest Hit Fund.

Auditors found money meant for homeowners was spent on things like baby shower gifts for coworkers and staff parties.

As of our September report, there were still $85 million left in Nevada's Hardest Hit Fund and four years to get it all out to homeowners in need. 

NAHAC says any homeowner who was rejected in the past can have their file reopened.