5 Illinois driver’s license facilities closed nearly a year in Chicago area

5 Illinois driver’s license facilities closed nearly a year in Chicago area

State workers are still being paid as their five Chicago-area driver’s license facilities remain closed for nearly a year. That’s as 1.2 million Illinoisans are driving on expired licenses.

Nearly 1 in 10 Illinoisans are driving with expired licenses or using expired IDs, but five Illinois Secretary of State’s driver’s license facilities in or near Chicago have been closed for almost a year.

Four have no set date to reopen.

Driver services offices that remained open during the pandemic have seen significantly longer lines, in part because of license facility closures, Secretary of State spokesman Henry Haupt said. Three of the facilities were closed for COVID-19 reasons, one because of sewer work and the fifth after it was torched during late-May rioting.

In a typical pre-pandemic month, about 40,000 Illinois residents have expired licenses or identification. It was about 1.2 million on April 20.

“It’s totally unacceptable,” Kathy Viernum of Chicago Heights told CBS 2 Chicago. She said local seniors feel stranded. “Not only with this, with the unemployment – it’s like we’re in the dark ages.”

Haupt said the state is trying its best to reopen facilities and improve services for all Illinoisans, including serving them online.

“The first thing I would say is we understand the frustrations,” Haupt said.

The Illinois Secretary of State’s Office had 4,650 employees in 2019, with an average annual salary of $42,898. There were also 2,762 retirees from the office averaging $29,000.

Employees idled by the facility closures continue to be paid.

Two downtown Chicago locations, in Thompson Center state office building and Cook County building, were closed by the pandemic. A Midlothian, Illinois, facility was closed after a positive COVID-19 case but is expected to reopen May 1.

A West Side facility was closed when sewer work made access difficult, Haupt said.

The Chicago Heights facility was shuttered after it was set on fire during the late-May riots and is still being repaired. Haupt said taxpayers are not paying the $13,110 monthly rent on that office, and a temporary facility is being pursued nearby at Prairie State College.

He expected facilities to reopen in a few months.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White extended the expired license renewal deadline to Aug. 1. His office is letting eligible residents renew licenses online.

“We are trying, to the best of our ability, to think outside the box and provide additional services, if we can, online,” Haupt said.

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