The city of Chicago’s latest phase in debt relief sets its sights on administrative debt, the sort of debt incurred by tickets for noise violations or littering.
The standard Administrative Debt Relief program is in place through March 31. Individuals and businesses can pay off their original fine amount, and the city will waive any penalties or fees that have accrued since the ticket was first issued. No application or income information is required for this program.
“What you're getting as a benefit is for any kind of docket that you have related to administrative hearings debts,” City Comptroller Reshma Soni said. “Let's say you have high weeds, and you've gotten a ticket from the city or Streets and Sanitation for that. You would have interest costs and fees waived by paying 100% of the fine amount or enrolling in a payment plan. Let’s say the ticket is $100, and it actually increased up to above $200 just with other fines, fees and penalties that would go on. So here, we would charge $100, and then if there's any court costs, which are usually nominal, that would get charged as well. You have a time period to pay that, so if you wanted to get onto a payment plan, you could get onto a payment plan. Our payment plans are $25 down payment in terms up to 24 months. The minimum amount is $10 a month. So it makes it really reasonable.”
Soni said since the program kicked off on Jan. 17, the city has already seen positive results.
“What we've seen is that people want to pay the debt, but it's not affordable for them if they have to come in and pay it like $100 off the bat,” Soni said. “When you have a payment plan where you have 24 months or 16 months to pay, it makes it more affordable. And we've already seen 26,000 dockets that have been impacted in terms of a reduction or the partial waiver of the fines and fees, which is amazing — and that's over $3.6 million that have already been reduced. So it's a really impactful program. We'd love to see more participation in these programs that will be really helpful for our citizens.”
Soni said an upcoming second phase of this program, ADR Hardship Relief, will allow income-eligible individuals to receive a discount on their original debt. That program begins in April, but Chicagoans can submit applications immediately on the city’s website.