By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —  The numbers are staggering.  Foreclosure auctions are up 61 percent and bank repossessions have more than tripled.  If you think we’re talking about a few years ago during the Great Recession, think again.  As 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan explains, those figures involve housing right now in New Jersey.

Foreclosure activity in the Garden State is on the rise.  Up 27 percent from a year ago.  It’s the highest rate in the entire country.  First Superstorm Sandy hit.  Then then casinos started closing down.   For Alejandra and Jose Perez of Galloway Township, New Jersey it was like a one-two punch.   Alejandra says, “My husband, his hours got reduced from 40 hours to 16 hours a week and then I ended up losing my job also as well, so it got even worse.”

READ MORE: Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney Says He'll Be Happy When He's Not Mayor Following Fourth Of July Shooting

The parents of three children, Alejandra and Jose now work multiple part-time jobs to make their condo mortgage payments.  Alejandra says, “I mean it was full time, I had benefits, I had everything, and I lost it.”  The couple now struggles to stay afloat, but for how long.  Alejandra says, “we won’t be able to afford our monthly payments.”

“It’s a very real issue for many of our fellow neighbors,” says Markita Morris-Louis of Clarifi, a non-profit credit and housing counseling agency.   She says that the Perez family is far from alone.  “We knew this was on the horizon,” says Morris-Louis.

According to RealtyTrac, nearby Atlantic City topped national metropolitan foreclosure filings in the 3rd quarter of this year.  One in every 97 homes had some sort of foreclosure activity.  Trenton wasn’t far behind with one in every 172 homes in financial distress.

“Thankfully there are agencies that are now trying to respond to it,” says Morris-Louis.  Several weeks ago New Jersey launched the HomeSaver program, a foreclosure prevention initiative offering eligible homeowners up to a $50,000 grant to help bring their monthly payment to an affordable level.

The program is designed to help people who are under-employed or unemployed and really facing financial hardship thru no fault of their own.  According to Morris-Louis,

READ MORE: Sources: Authorities Investigating Whether 2 Police Officers Struck By Stray Bullets On Ben Franklin Parkway

“It’s a way to help you through a rough patch with the idea that at some point in the near future, the homeowner will be able to afford the mortgage payments on their own.”

Alejandra and Jose Perez have applied for the program.  Now they sit and wait.  Alejandra says, “We’re keeping our fingers crossed and hopefully we’ll get approved.”

Homeowners don’t need to be delinquent in their mortgage payments to be eligible for the HomeSaver program and you can even be underwater on your mortgage, meaning you owe more on your loan than your home is currently worth.  There is no cost involved to participate in the program.  If any organization asks for upfront fees to apply, it’s a red flag that they’re running a scam.

Contact your mortgage servicer to find out if they participate in the HomeSaver program or reach out to a HUD accredited housing counseling agency like Clarifi to help.

For more information visit:

MORE NEWS: Kyle Schwarber Homers Twice In Phillies' 11-0 Romp Past Nationals