Evictions get a Supreme Court go-ahead
U.S. landlords were intially barred from evicting tenants in March 2020, as part of the first pandemic rescue bill passed by Congress. When that ban ended last summer, the Centers for Disease Control restarted it as a matter of public health, to prevent crowded housing situations that would spread COVID.
But the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the CDC had overstepped its authority. A national eviction moratorium is a matter that Congress must approve, the justices say.
"It is indisputable that the public has a strong interest in combating the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant," the decision says. "But our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends."
The ruling came down as the Biden administration was in the midst of trying to unclog the distribution of $46.6 billion in emergency money set aside to help renters pay overdue rent and utility costs. The money was provided by the last two COVID stimulus packages passed by Congress.
White House tries to get rent relief flowing
The Treasury announced on Wednesday that only about $5.1 billion had been distributed so far — a scant 11% of the total.
The aid money is being funneled through hundreds of programs at the state and local levels; the administration is pressuring them to pick up the pace.
"No state or locality should delay distributing resources that have been provided by Congress to meet families’ critical needs and prevent the tragedy of unnecessary eviction," the White House says in a fact sheet.
The sheet says state and local agencies have been given permission to provide rent relief merely if households say they need it (what's called "self-attestation"), with no further documentation required.
In places where it works, rental assistance is major
If you or someone you know has tried to apply for emergency rental assistance and became frustrated by a drawn-out or confusing process, you might want to check back soon with your local housing authority to see if things have improved.
The stimulus aid available to renters can be pretty substantial. In Illinois, eligible tenants and landlords can apply for one-time grants of up to $25,000 to pay off a maximum 15 months of rent missed between June 2020 and August 2021.
The program in Texas covers unpaid rent and utilities reaching back as far as March 13, 2020, and can pay for up to two months of future rent and utilities. The relief for Texans caps out at $4,600 per month.
The end of the eviction ban is just the latest challenge for struggling renters. Rents are soaring — rising in June at an annual rate of 10.5% for detached homes and 4.6% for apartments, according to new data from CoreLogic.
How to make your own rent relief
Here's the best recommendation if you or someone in your immediate circle owes a hefty amount of back rent: Apply for emergency rental assistance today. There's a lot of money out there.
But while you're struggling to make ends meet because of the pandemic, here are a few ways to give yourself more financial breathing room until your rent stimulus check arrives — or if you're not likely to qualify for one.
- Cut the cost of your debt. If your budget is stretched to the limit every month because of credit card bills and other high-interest debts, consider replacing them with a single, lower-interest debt consolidation loan. That will help you pay off what you owe more affordably, and quickly.
- Find a new job. With U.S. employers straining to fill openings right now, it's an excellent opportunity to find a new, higher-paying job. Or, if you’re happy where you’re at but would like to generate a little more income by freelancing, there are plenty of people who would pay for your skills.
- Save more when you shop. You can spend less every time you shop online by downloading a free browser extension that will automatically scan thousands of retailers for lower prices — and keep you from overpaying.
- Generate profits with your pennies. Even if you're strapped for cash, it can be surprisingly easy to squeeze a little extra income out of the sizzling stock market. Using a popular app, you can invest in a diversified portfolio with just your "spare change" from everyday purchases.