A Financial Services Foreclosure Prevention mobile center makes a stop...

A Financial Services Foreclosure Prevention mobile center makes a stop in Freeport this past month. (May 18, 2012) Credit: Uli Seit

A new $60 million program will fund counseling and legal help for homeowners struggling to pay mortgage bills, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Monday.

The Homeowner Protection Program will provide help to distressed homeowners for three years, Schneiderman said at a news conference at the Long Island Housing Partnership’s offices in Hauppauge. Last year, 345,000 mortgages were either in default or delinquent in New York, according to the attorney general.

The attorney general was joined at the announcement by federal Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, along with two Long Island homeowners and representatives of agencies that will take part in the program.

Schneiderman also announced he is accepting applications from providers of legal and counseling services that would like to take part in the program.

“Funding housing counseling and legal services is an essential first step to help more families stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “As we continue to investigate the mortgage crisis that has hurt communities in every corner of this state, we must ensure that homeowners get the expert guidance and legal representation they need to protect their rights before it's too late.”

Photo: Foreclosure prevention specialists with the New York State Department of Financial Services use a Mobile Command Center to reach out to Long Island homeowners.

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