THE number of struggling homeowners receiving state aid to help meet their mortgages has jumped by more than a quarter in just two years.
The mortgage-interest supplement is provided for people who are unable to repay the interest owed on their homes.
Figures obtained by the Irish Independent show the average annual payout received last year was just over €3,500.
Some €67.8m was paid out under the scheme to 18,988 mortgage-holders in 2010 -- up from 14,716 in 2009, when €60.9m was paid out.
As many as 17,648 mortgage-holders received a combined €65.6m under the scheme last year.
People are eligible to apply for the supplement payment if their mortgage was entered into at a time when the person was in a position to meet the repayments, and the house has not been put up for sale.
There are six criteria for eligibility, including not being in full-time employment.
A person can, however, receive the mortgage-interest supplement even if they are working and are not getting any social welfare payments -- but they must not be employed for more than 30 hours a week.
The mortgage-interest supplement is not a time- limited payment. The payment continues while a recipient meets the eligibility criteria, according to the Department of Social Protection.
The terms of the scheme were altered in Budget 2012.
The minimum contribution that all households are required to pay jumped from €6 to €30 per week for a single person, and increased by €12 to €35 for a couple.
And it was announced the supplement payments would also be deferred for 12 months if the person is in the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP), where homeowners in arrears re-negotiate their mortgage repayments with their lenders.
The MARP scheme also allows those having difficulty repaying their mortgages to have a moratorium on repossessions rolled over for a number of years.