RALEIGH N.C. (WNCN) – The foreclosure process can now start again for struggling homeowners hit by the pandemic after national protections against foreclosures ended earlier this week.

North Carolina has $273 million in federal funds for homeowners in trouble during the pandemic. But not a penny yet has seen pocketbooks.

The state Housing Finance Agency says it is waiting to take applications until getting plans approved from the U.S. Treasury.

“We will then need to wait for Treasury approval and don’t yet know what that timeline will be,” an agency spokesperson said in a statement. “We are using this time to secure a vendor for program management, build the necessary infrastructure, educate potential local partners and develop a marketing and outreach plan so we can alert struggling homeowners across the state as soon as our application portal opens.”

TowneBank Mortgage senior loan officer Phil Jawny has been in the business for two decades. He said people don’t have to wait to get help and there are many things struggling homeowners can do to avoid foreclosure or further financial housing woes.

“We’re not seeing this rush of phone calls. We’re not seeing this pent-up demand of foreclosures hitting the market. I think that’s another big misconception,” Jawny said. “Much softer landing than what message is being pushed out there.”

While the federal moratorium on foreclosures has ended, most people can still apply for a forbearance agreement through the end of September, which allows them to delay payment.

They can also call their loan servicer to set up a payment plan that works to avoid foreclosure.

“No one wants anyone to have any foreclosures hit, banks don’t want foreclosures to hit. So anything that the industry can do to help that homeowner, they’re doing,” Jawny said.

Another option is to sell.

Houses are going for well over asking right now and for people in a tight spot, he says selling could be a saving grace, especially with high demand.

“You can get top dollar, pay off your mortgage, pay off all of your other consumer debt that you have and walk away with probably a little bit of a nest egg and get on a better financial track to improve yourself,” Jawny said.

Another option is reaching out to the State Home Foreclosure Prevention Project at 1-888-442-8188. The program offers free housing counseling, works with servicers and provides referrals to legal aid.