AG, Foundation program to help those facing foreclosure August 15, 2009 Regular News AG, Foundation program to help those facing foreclosure ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL McCOLLUM presents a $2 million check to The Florida Bar Foundation to be used for grants to provide free legal assistance to homeowners facing foreclosures. The money came from a settlement of a consumer suit brought by McCollum and AGs from several other states against Countrywide Financial. From the left are former Foundation President Bill Davis, Florida Legal Services Director Kent Spuhler, McCollum, and Jorge Chamizo, representing the Cuban American Bar Association.The Attorney General’s Office and The Florida Bar Foundation have launched a foreclosure defense assistance program, funded by money obtained by the AG through a settlement with Countrywide Financial. A total of $4 million will be available over two years to fund additional lawyer and paralegal positions devoted to providing free assistance to homeowners facing foreclosures who cannot afford a legal defense.“Florida’s legal services organizations have been overwhelmed with the sheer volume of distressed homeowners seeking assistance, so we are extremely pleased that funds from this settlement will provide them with additional resources to help these clients stay in their homes,” Foundation President Adele Stone said. “We also appreciate that the attorney general has placed his confidence in The Florida Bar Foundation as the administrator of the program.”Florida currently has the fourth highest rate of foreclosures in the nation. “The high number of foreclosures in Florida has left our homeowners vulnerable to fraud and desperate for assistance,” AG Bill McCollum said. “I know that the assistance these attorneys will provide will mean a world of difference to the homeowners they help.”The funds are being distributed through the Foundation in the form of annual grants awarded to legal services providers. The grants will vary in size depending on the number of foreclosures experienced in a particular area. A total of $2 million is available for distribution this year, and another $2 million will be available next year. The AG’s Office will participate in the application review process and will work with the Foundation to award the funds.The Foundation’s Paul Doyle said the grants will be awarded at the Foundation’s August 27-28 meeting and facilitate the hiring of about 23 lawyers across the state.“We expect the grants will be effective October 1, so sometime in September people interested in knowing who has those grants can go to our Web site [ www.flabarfndn.org ] and get it,” Doyle said.Cristina Alonso, president of Florida Legal Services, Inc., commended the AG’s office for its support of the Foundation’s mortgage fraud pro bono attorney program.“In these economic times, many families have fallen victim to foreclosure rescue scams and related fraud,” Alonso said. “Through this program, legal services organizations, such as Florida Legal Services, Inc., have an opportunity to directly assist these families struggling with foreclosures.”The Cuban American Bar Association has applied for one of the grants to help Floridians maintain their homes, said CABA President Roland Sanchez-Medina, Jr.“If awarded, these funds will help CABA assist low-income Floridians across the state, and particularly those in Miami-Dade County, who are in need of early intervention, counseling, and pro bono legal services,” Sanchez-Medina said.