Boot for Late Utility Payments in Chicago?

Boot for Late Utility Payments

While the Stock Markets might be at all-time-highs, most Chicago residents are struggling to keep afloat in a sea of bills and debt. For so many paying bills is a juggling act that would impress even circus performers. Miss your rent payment, and you can find your stuff out on the street, fall behind on a car payment, and your vehicle will be hooked up to the back of a tow truck on a return trip to the dealer. A day late-a dollar short and one can find themselves with hundreds of dollars in fines and additional costs; so we should all feel a small sign of relief that, at least for now, the city has shelved the bill to use the Denver boot to collect unpaid Utility bills.

As the plan was devised by it’s sponsor Illinois State Senator Ira Silverstein, if you were late on one of your utility bills, you could go to your car or truck and find a big yellow “Boot” on your wheel. If you do find your car has been booted, you then have 24 hours to pay that unpaid utility bill plus the added boot fee. If you are unable to come up with that cash, your car will be towed and impounded. This then starts a 21-day countdown for you to pay off your entire utility bill, plus the added boot fee, the tow fee, as well as a storage fee. If you can’t raise all that money, your car will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

I do understand that utilities have every right to be paid for the services they provide, but I also understand that for many, no car equals no job and of course with out that job there is no way to pay any of your bills. The burden of this legislation can fall hardest on those living on fixed income where every dollars is accounted for simply leaving no room for extra fees for towing, storage and other fees.

“At the end of the month it’s all spent, the people I know just don’t have extra for tow fees and stuff”. Said Beverly B. Johnson.

According to a staff member at Illinois Senate President John Cullerton’s (D-Chicago) office, bill SB0036 had already been assigned to the Judiciary Committee. It seems clear that both Cullerton’s and Silverstein’s offices have been fielding a large number of angry phone calls because, for now, the bill has been taken off the docket, sending it back to sponsor Senator Ira Silverstein. This is a case where a news outlet, in this case Crain’s Chicago Business wrote a story outlining the proposed legislation and in the light of day, voters seemed less than pleased. But it is important to remember this bill is not dead, just shelved for now.

With so many in Chicago working hard to keep up with their bills, it seems like a hard time to hit people with extra fees. I talk to customers each day that are working two jobs to make their rent, car payments, insurance, school books for their kids and to put some food on the table. Our basic Auto Liability rates are lower now than they were 20 years ago, but so many other bills people are facing keep going up faster than their income. Now is not a time for government to be strong-arming people with fees and fines that for many can equal a weeks take home pay.

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