CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s an astounding number – more than 1 million people are driving with expired licenses or using expired IDs in Illinois right now.
Making the problem worse in the Chicago area is that almost a half dozen Illinois Secretary of State’s driver’s license facilities are closed.
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CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov wanted to know what is happening with those closed offices. Five offices in all – including the one in the basement of the George W. Dunne Cook County Office Building at 69 W. Washington St. downtown, are still closed.
So is the larger downtown site at the Thompson Center at 100 W. Randolph St.
In most cases, we have learned that there is no set date for some of them to reopen.
At the Driver Services offices that do remain open, there are long lines – and social distancing and patience are required.
They are all busier because of those five closed offices. In addition to the two downtown sites, the site on the city’s West Side at 5301 W. Lexington St. is also closed, as are the sites in south suburban Chicago Heights and Midlothian.
Almost all of them have been shut down for almost a year.
“The first thing I would say is we understand the frustrations,” said Secretary of State’s office spokesman Henry Haupt.
Haupt pointed out that each location shut down for different reasons. The downtown locations shutdowns are pandemic related, while the shutdown in Midlothian is due to a positive COVID-19 case.
But Haupt said the West Side facility is closed because ongoing city sewer work makes access difficult, and the Chicago Heights facility has been shuttered since it was set on fire during the civil unrest last spring – with repairs by the landlord now being far from complete.
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“It’s totally unacceptable,” said Kathy Viernum of Chicago Heights.
Viernum said area seniors in particular feel stranded.
“Fix the problem. Fix the problem,” Viernum said. “That’s all I’m saying.”
Haupt said they’re trying, but acknowledges the closures are making the backlog worse. Currently, 1.2 million Illinoisans have expired licenses or IDs.
In a typical pre-pandemic month, it was about 40,000.
“We are trying, to the best of our ability, to think outside the box and provide additional services, if we can, online,” Haupt said.
He said taxpayers are no longer paying the $13,110 a month rent on the Chicago Heights facility pending repairs, and added that the office is working to set up a pop-up Driver Services Facility at Prairie State College down the road.
But Viernum is fed up.
“Not only with this, with the unemployment – it’s like we’re in the dark ages,” she said.
Secretary of State Jesse White extended the expired license renewal deadline to Aug. 1 and his office is working on making it possible for everyone who is eligible to renew online to do so.
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But other than Midlothian this week, and the West Side facility which is set to reopen on May 1, those other offices are expected to be closed for at least another few months.