COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- More than 3,500 South Carolina families have received assistance through a federally funded program designed to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.

But the nearly $36 million distributed so far represents just 12 percent of the $295 million awarded to South Carolina through the U.S. Treasury's Hardest Hit Fund.

Officials say that's frustratingly low when the need is so great. South Carolina qualified for its chunk of $7.6 billion because of chronically high jobless rates.

An advocate for the poor says the program is too limited in who it can help, while a legislator in charge of the House budget for economic development blames poor marketing.

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