News Column

Bank Helps Find Jobs for Troubled Homeowners

Feb 15, 2013

Marcia Heroux Pounds

The primary reason some homeowners fall behind on their mortgage is loss of their job.

Trying to stay current gets difficult, and oftentimes things get contentious between borrower and lender.

Fifth Third Bancorp is taking a different approach, trying to reach out and lend a hand. Fifth Third has teamed with re-employment company NextJob to offer job-search assistance to clients who are having trouble making mortgage payments.

In a pilot program, NextJob counselors provided one-on-one coaching to 28 unemployed homeowners, who on average had been out of work for nearly two years. Nearly 40 percent were employed after six months. Fifth Third Bancorp said it has expanded the program, which is paid for by the bank.

The program is available to troubled homeowners in South Florida who have mortgages with Fifth Third, though none are currently in the program. Some Central Florida residents are enrolled, according to NextJob spokeswoman Kristi Weigant.

"We expect to put a lot more people through this program," said Stacy Haas, spokeswoman for Cincinnati-based First Third Bancorp.

So far, the now-employed homeowners have been able to avoid foreclosure action, she said.

Fifth Third Bancorp has $122 billion in assets and operates in 12 states, including Florida. In South Florida, the bank has locations from West Palm Beach to Miami.

Fifth Third Mortgage said it has converted about 97 percent of its trial plans with homeowners to permanent modifications. The national average is 87 percent for the government Home Affordable Modification program.

Headquartered in Oregon, NextJob is a nationwide reemployment firm founded in 2007. NextJob offers job-search software designed to help the unemployed create an effective resume and cover letter, develop a job-search action plan, use Internet tools and techniques, and prepare for job interviews.

The program is usually available to workers as part of a severance package.

John Courtney, chief executive of NextJob, said in a news release that the bank "understood that neither party benefits from a foreclosure. Job loss, followed by the loss of one's home, is severely damaging to individuals and families. This program is a simple, but its time has come for the banking industry."



Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: (c) 2013 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)


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