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Stimulus check: There's a 'secret' payment you need to ask for

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

While stimulus check 3 may end up being be the last direct payment distributed to many Americans this year, homeowners still may be able to get more relief money to cover their mortgage payments and unpaid debts. 

The Biden administration's American Rescue Plan included a nearly $10 billion Homeowner Assistance Fund, which provides money to states, territories and tribes to support property owners struggling to pay their bills due to the pandemic. 

The Homeowner Assistance Fund can be used to cover expenses like mortgage payments, property taxes and utilities as well as insurance and homeowners'-association dues. 

States and equivalent government bodies are in charge of distributing this relief money to those who are at risk of mortgage delinquency and default, as well as of foreclosure, displacement and loss of power or water. 

Homeowners whose incomes are less than or equal to 100% of their area's median income or 100% of the national median income (whichever is greater), as well as those who are "socially disadvantaged," will receive priority.  

In order to qualify for money from the Homeowner Assistance Fund, you must meet the following criteria: 

  • You own your home. 
  • You have a mortgage with a balance lower than $548,250
  • You are experiencing financial hardship, such as job or income loss, in 2021.
  • You can provide the documentation required by your state. 

Each state, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia,  is eligible to receive at least $50 million to distribute to residents. The territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands can get $30 million each. Federally recognized tribes and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands share a pot of $498 million.

How to claim homeowner assistance 

Unfortunately, applying for housing relief isn't straightforward or streamlined, as each state has its own process for disbursing funds. 

You'll be dealing with your state's housing finance agency (HFA) rather than the federal government, so the first step is to locate and contact your state or territory's HFA to find out whether you qualify and what you need to do to apply. 

Residents of American Samoa should start with the territory's Housing Trust Fund , while Native Hawaiians and members of federally recognized tribes should contact their tribal governments or the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Native American Programs.

If you're feeling left out because you're not a homeowner, or you've kept up on your mortgage payments, don't forget that you might still be able to qualify for more stimulus money through plus-up payments or Recovery Rebate Credits

And if you've got children at home and you qualified for the third stimulus checks, then you'll be getting an advance on your 2021 child tax credits every month beginning in July.

Emily Long
Emily Long is a Utah-based freelance writer who covers tech, security, and personal finance. She has strong opinions on what passes for good coffee and would rather be hiking right now.