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Mortgage rescue hopefuls wait months to find out if they'll get help

From Kevin Bohn and Jessica Yellin, CNN
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Government helps homeowners
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Administration's homeowner relief program designed to avoid foreclosures
  • As of the end of November, 4.3 percent of applicants have been approved
  • Administration says it's angry, blames mortgage lenders
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Manassas, Virginia (CNN) -- Daisy Vidal thought she was lucky. She was offered a more affordable mortgage on a trial basis, which she thought would allow her to hold on to her home.

Instead, she's still living in fear of losing it.

"I worry so much -- when I hear a lot of people are losing their houses," Vidal said.

Vidal's son was helping make her mortgage payments before he lost his job and had to move across the country to find work.

Her daughter Rebecca and her two daughters and Rebecca's husband from whom she's separated are also living in the home. Rebecca helps some, but the husband can't.

Vidal applied for relief under the Obama administration's homeowner relief program, which was designed to avoid foreclosures. After three months of steady payments, her mortgage company was supposed to decide if it would make her temporary mortgage permanent. Instead, she's spent the last seven months supplying more documents and worrying about losing her home.

She's not alone. So far, lenders are failing at offering permanent new mortgages under the program.

The administration projected that between half and three-quarters of applicants would have new mortgages at this point. As of the end of November, the number is 4.3 percent.

Some in Congress say it's time to turn up the heat on the lenders.

"We forced the lion to lie with the lamb. But if you look closely, when the lion gets up, the lamb is missing, and we're saying, 'Here, kitty, kitty,' " said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri.

The administration says it's angry, too.

"We're going to move to the point where we're disciplining the banks if they don't perform better than they are today," Assistant Treasury Secretary Herb Allison said.

The banks, which received bailout money, say they're doing what they can to keep up with an overwhelming demand.

"Our goal is to keep as many customers in their homes as possible. We understand the urgency of our solutions," Jack Schakett of Bank of America told the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday.

After CNN asked about the status of Vidal's application, Saxton Mortgage, which holds her mortgage, said it had determined that she does not qualify for a permanent mortgage under the program. Instead, the company said, the company is offering her a new mortgage through its own program.

Saxton said it has "launched a number of proactive programs" to help others having difficulties with the president's program.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Thursday that parts of the program are working. He said at least 750,000 Americans have gotten temporary new mortgages, which has reduced their payments an average of $550 a month. Treasury is taking steps to speed up the program, sending what it calls "SWAT teams" into the banks to get more mortgages resolved quickly.

Rebecca Vidal would like her situation resolved one way or another.

"We almost feel like we are getting the runaround because we don't get a yes or not.

"We would much prefer to get a yes. If we are going to get a no, we would like to know as soon as possible so that we don't have any unrealistic expectations."