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Getting foreclosure relief from settlement may not be easy

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ATLANTA -

A new program to help families dealing with foreclosure is ramping up.  It's the second part of the landmark deal called the National Mortgage Settlement, and it makes $710 million available to Georgians for foreclosure relief.

Experts say getting that relief may not be easy.

Big banks are doing this because of their role in the real estate market collapse.  There is money out there for some of you, but you have to go back to the bank that you believe got you into this jam in the first place in order to get it.

John Bartholomew, an attorney with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, tries to be optimistic about this latest program to help families fighting foreclosure, or living now in practically worthless real estate.  

"This one, we hope, has a little more teeth to it because it's being backed and was negotiated by the attorney generals of around 49 states.  But, we'll have to see," said Bartholomew.

Annettee Willingham, 70, is working with Legal Aid.  Her husband suddenly died. That single, catastrophic event set off a chain of bad luck.  She remembers her first foreclosure notice.

"I called my daughter and started crying.  Because I didn't know what to do," said Willingham.

Busy raising two great-grandchildren, she has been trying to get her loan modified ever since.  But the bank, she says, can't seem to keep track of her paperwork.  This new agreement is supposed to remedy that.

"They have to provide a single person, a single point of contact, to homeowners that will talk to them about their case, that will shepherd them through the application process," said Bartholomew.

Willingham has twice fought off foreclosure with the help of Legal Aid. She's hopeful she can stay in her home rather than let it be just one more abandoned house.

Many people haven't gotten help yet. In fact, many houses continue to be sold on the courthouse steps. Before you get to this point, Legal Aid says there are three calls you need to make. 

First, call your bank. Don't wait for them to notify you that you qualify.  After you make the first move, call a HUD-certified counselor. Let them help you wade through process. Finally, if there is any problem, even the slightest glitch, report it to the attorney general's office.

According to legal aid, the last word in this case is denied. Willingham has been told by the bank that they won't do a loan modification for her. This puts her in a really bad place as she can't rent an apartment for what she pays for that home. The good news is that her latest foreclosure date – September – has been postponed.

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