Now that lawmakers are finally beginning to work on a state budget, Democrats are urging Republicans to use Virginia’s share of the federal mortgage settlement to aid struggling homeowners in the state.

“Throughout the commonwealth, people are struggling to keep their heads above water,” House Minority Leader David Toscano (D- Charlottesville) said. “Whether they live in Albemarle County, Prince William or Hampton Roads, the commonwealth needs to be helping homeowners get back on their feet.”

Democrats in the House tried to amend the budget to allow the state’s $69 million share of the $25 billion settlement to go toward foreclosure victims and promote homeownership as dictated by the Virginia Housing Development Authority and the Governor's Foreclosure Task Force — instead of the general fund. It failed, 70-29.

Foreclosures in Virginia are heavier in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, including Prince William and Loudoun counties. The January report of the Governor’s Foreclosure Task Force estimates that more than 3 percent of all Virginia mortgages are in delinquency and 15,000 homes are lender-owned.

“Whether it is assisting first time home buyers, rehabilitating existing properties or working to prevent further foreclosures, this money should be used to responsibly mitigate the effects of the mortgage crisis and revitalize the housing industry,” said Del. Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon), who introduced the amendment. “Using one-time funds for balancing our budget is exactly the kind of financial gimmickry that gets us into trouble.”