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Tens of billions still bogged down, but getting out

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Tenants have only gotten $10 billion in rental assistance so far, even though some improvements have been made by different states to reduce bottlenecks.

The funds may have prevented fewer Americans from losing their homes after the national moratorium on evictions ended in August. Eviction filings are below historic levels, the Treasury says.

The government still plans to make more than 3 million payments by the end of this year.

In August, the Biden administration announced a series of new steps to help states and localities speed up distributing the money to families facing critical needs.

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Places where rental assistance is working

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If you or someone you know has tried to apply for emergency rental assistance and became frustrated or confused during the process, you can contact your local housing authority to see if things have improved.

Some places have been making improvements. Michigan, Minnesota and North Carolina gave their renters 14% more last month than before, the Treasury reports.

Los Angeles more than doubled its disbursements to $72 million in September, up from $32 million a month earlier. Illinois gave out 185% more ($177 million) last month, compared to $62 million in August.

Social workers have been working in courts to make sure people facing eviction know how to apply for emergency financial help.

Other areas overcame language and technical roadblocks by using nonprofit community organizations to work with tenants and landlords.

Renters may not realize it, but that assistance can pay for other bills besides housing. You can pay for utilities and home energy costs. It may also cover internet fees to your home, reasonable late fees and moving expenses for families who have to find another place to live.

To learn more about how funds are distributed, who is eligible and how to apply locally, contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Create your own rental relief

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While you continue to wait for assistance, or if you’re not eligible, here are some ways you can improve your finances:

  • Eliminate debt. One way to stretch your budget is to make it more manageable. You can replace your high-interest debts with a single, lower-interest debt consolidation loan. This will save you from spending your money unnecessarily on high-interest fees — which can help free you from debt sooner.

  • Find a better job. Lots of jobs are waiting to be filled right now. Some are offering higher salaries and other incentives just to get you to walk through the door. A new, better-paying job can give you more cash to throw toward your bills. Some companies are even offering educational opportunities to improve your skills — potentially opening up more career choices for you.

  • Shop smarter. Bargain-hunting can free up some of your cash, and it’s now easier than ever. By downloading a free browser extension that automatically scans thousands of retailers for lower prices, you can save — big time.

  • Make a few extra cents work for you. Sometimes at a checkout stand, a clerk asks you about rounding up a few cents from your purchase for a good cause. Now, with a popular app, you can do this for yourself. Turn your “spare change” from everyday shopping into an investment portfolio that pays you dividends.

What are your spending habits?

When you know where your money is going, you can make better financial decisions.

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