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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Housing officials on Monday announced a new foreclosure prevention program aimed at helping tens of thousands of Ohioans who are struggling to pay their mortgages.

The Ohio Housing Finance Agency announced the launch of $320 million in federal funds to help consumers who may not qualify for traditional foreclosure prevention programs.

“This will be the first opportunity where we can actually help folks who have some kind of hardship that might have put them into a situation where it is a temporary problem, but it is one that they’re facing that we can now help them address,” said Ohio Director of Commerce Kimberly Zurz.

The fund will provide up to $15,000 in payments, to get the mortgage current, while homeowners search for a job. It can also be used to help with short sales or deeds in lieu, so the homeowner can leave their home gracefully.

“We’ll be able to provide resources to help them stay in their homes while they are going through job training, while they are looking for another job, while they are dealing with the kinds of things that really weren’t a fault of their own and help them get through these tough times,” said Ohio Housing Finance Agency Executive Director Doug Garver.

The program is expected to help 26,000 people. By 1 p.m. Monday, more than 1,000 people had already signed up.