TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) – South Florida homeowners struggling to make their mortgage payments may be able to get a helping hand from Uncle Sam.

For the first time, one billion dollars in federal aid is being made available to Florida to help homeowners who have lost their jobs or have a job but don’t make enough to meet their basic living expenses.

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Homeowners can begin applying Monday for the Hardest Hit program.

Florida’s Hardest Hit Program

If selected, the homeowner can use the money to make loan payments for up to a year and a half and bring delinquent loans current. The maximum amount available under the Hardest Hit program is $12 thousand in mortgage payments and up to $6 thousand to make the payment current.

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Homeowners who receive the help will, in return, have to contribute at least $70 per month or 25 percent of their monthly income, the amount will be determined by program administrators.

If the homeowner receives the assistance but sells the property within five years or goes into foreclosure, they will have to pay the money back to the state.

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation, which will be overseeing the distribution of the funds, believes it will help approximately 30 to 40 thousand homeowners.

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Nationwide, $7.6 billion is being made available to 18 states and the District of Columbia which have been hit hard by high unemployment and a depressed real estate market.