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Illinois Allows Car Repossessions To Resume; One Recovery Agent Says It May Put Him In Danger

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Some car owners are learning the hard way – past-due payments are no longer being forgiven in the era of COVID-19.

As CBS 2's Jeremy Ross reported Monday evening, the state is once again allowing the repo man to snatch your ride.

Recovery agents target cars whose payments are far past due. But the ability for them to conduct repossessions was mostly put on hold by the State of Illinois due to the crippling economic impacts of COVID-19.

That is, until Aug. 22, when Illinois allowed workers again to start repossessing vehicles.

"I don't think we're ready for that," one recovery agent said. "I don't know if I'm ready for that."

The recovery agent asked that we not show his face on camera. He has repossessed thousands of cars over an 18-year career, but he said with many unable to go back to their jobs, shrinking unemployment checks, and growing financial stress, taking a family's car could be financial death sentence during the pandemic.

And that can mean mounting danger in trying to do his job.

Recovery Agent: "I'm in fear of my safety for the first time."

Ross: "Do you think it's only a matter of before you're hurt or worse?"

Recovery Agent: "Absolutely."

Ed Forsythe, executive director of the Professional Towing and Recovery Operators of Illinois, said the job of a recovery agent has always been a dangerous job.

Ross: "Is now the right time to start repossessing cars?"

Forsythe: "You'd have to ask the lenders that."

Ross: "Why now?"

Forsythe: "I believe it was the finance industry, more than anything, pushing it.

The recovery agent added, "You have the small-time banks that are hurting, and they're going to push the envelope."

Forsythe said some banks are being flexible with past-due loans, but others are not. And that is keeping some repossessors busy.

"I just don't think that's right," said the recovery agent.

The recovery agent said before the pandemic, his company would repossess about 700 cars per month. Because pandemic restrictions are lifted, over the next month he is forecasting that will double.

"That's because of the backlog – we could work 24/7, seven days a week, and still not catch up," he said.

We reached out to the state to ask why evictions are still on hold while car repossessions are not. This is a statement from a Governor's office spokesman:

"The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of many Illinois residents and, for many people, their ability to weather this crisis hinges on their ability to keep a roof over their head. Governor Pritzker first issued an Executive Order prohibiting evictions throughout the state in April and has extended the moratorium through September. The administration remains committed to advancing policies and programming that will offer support to Illinois residents and businesses during this challenging time."

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