Pandemic-era inflation, rent hikes and dwindling federal aid led to a sharp spike in eviction claims in August and September, NBC News reported.

And the problem is only expected to get worse in the coming months, with the moratorium lifted and only $7 billion in emergency rental assistance still available.

“From now on, it’s going to be a very, very difficult time,” Tim Thomas, research director at the Urban Displacement Project at the University of California, Berkeley, told NBC.

Evictions — which had remained low for the past two years due to a moratorium and the availability of nearly $50 billion in federal housing assistance — were above their historical averages in about half of the 1,050 counties tracked by Legal Services Corp.

About 8 million people said they were at least a month behind on their rent, and another 3 million said they were at least somewhat likely to be evicted in the coming months, according to a survey by census.

Nearly 4.5 million respondents also said their monthly rent had increased between $250 and $500 over the past year, and 2.5 million said their rent had increased by more than $500.

Cities like Phoenix and Oklahoma City have been particularly hard hit, with rents jumping at least 24% over the past year.

Evictions followed. For example, in Oklahoma County, which includes Oklahoma City, evictions are up 40% from pre-pandemic levels.

“With inflation and the massive increases in rent prices that we have seen in recent years, the situation is much worse for low-income tenants than it was before the pandemic, when we were already in a affordable housing crisis,” said Daniel Grubbs-Donovan. , a researcher at Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, told NBC News.

The Biden administration responded by urging states and municipalities to use leftover funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to help struggling tenants.

The rise in rents coincides with general pessimism about the economy, with a majority of Americans saying the country is heading for a recession next year.

Rent increases, however, appear to have slowed, with some parts of the country seeing slight declines.

In addition, inflation appears to have eased, with the Labor Department announcing earlier this week that the consumer price index rose 7.7% from a year earlier, the smallest increase since February.

—Ted Glanzer