PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The state has only helped roughly 15% of homeowners who applied for financial assistance earlier this year, according to Rhode Island Housing.

Peter Pagonis, director of homeownership with Rhode Island Housing, tells 12 News that 2,840 people have requested assistance through the Homeowner Assistance Fund Rhode Island, or HAF-RI.

The state launched HAF-RI back in January with the goal of helping Rhode Island homeowners who have been financially harmed by the pandemic.

Through HAF-RI, eligible homeowners have the opportunity to tap into the $50 million in federal funding set aside for the program.

But HAF-RI was forced to stop accepting applications in late March due to the high volume of requests that were “outpacing the available funds.”

Pagonis said so far, only 440 Rhode Island homeowners have received financial assistance through the program.

The reason, he explained, is because it takes a while to process the applications and ensure that the homeowner is actually eligible.

Pagonis also said there are only 12 employees working to process thousands of applications.

“The services not only have received inquiries from us … but also the other 49 states who are participating in the program,” he said.

While he expects the money to run out by next year, Pagonis said HAF-RI has proven that there is a need for financial assistance from Rhode Islanders of all backgrounds.

“It certainly points to the fact that many Rhode Islanders, specifically with mortgages, are struggling financially,” he said. “We see applicants who are self-employed, applicants who work for small businesses and we see some applicants who work for large businesses as well.”

Eligible applicants can receive up to $50,000 in HAF-RI assistance over a two-year period. The money can be used for a wide variety of housing-related costs, from mortgage expenses and property taxes to condo fees, utility bills and insurance premiums.