Cook Co. homeowner received nearly $2K refund thanks to 'Black and Latino Houses Matter' phone bank

BROADVIEW, Ill. (WLS) -- A phone bank aimed at helping Cook County homeowners is happening Wednesday after a huge response earlier this year.

In March, the Cook County Treasurer's Office gave back more than $12.5 million in exemptions and refunds and Wednesday, they're hoping to give back more money.

Cook Co. Treasurer Maria Pappas, ABC7 team up for 2nd 'Black and Latino Houses Matter' phone bank

The last phone bank was so successful that Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas says she had to do it again.

For one viewer, she didn't realize that she had nearly $2,000 just sitting there waiting to be claimed. She heard about the phone bank and couldn't believe what happened next.

"They were like, 'Oh yes, you're owed a refund,'" said Lakecia Whimper. "I was like, 'Really?'"

it's money that Whimper wasn't expecting. The Broadview homeowner says she was watching ABC 7 when she heard about Cook County's Black and Latino Houses Matter phone bank. She said she called because she wanted to make sure her home was in good standing.

"A lot of people of color have been losing their property just from unpaid property taxes and not knowing how to navigate the system," Whimper said.

Treasurer Pappas started the initiative after uncovering disturbing data showing that most of the homeowners who are in jeopardy of losing their homes are in Black or Latino neighborhoods.

Her research also revealed that most of the people of color who are delinquent on their taxes owe less than $1,000 and many haven't applied for any exemptions, which would wipe their debt away.

The phone bank is aimed at getting homeowners on track and connecting people in Cook County with their money.

"We were shocked than we gave back $12.5 million worth of refunds," Pappas said. "Some of the people calling our phone bank are the same people who could have lost their property, but for us giving them their exemptions and refunds that they're owed. So, there's a certain happiness that comes with being able to keep people in their homes."

Pappas said there's still a lot more money at her office waiting to be claimed.

"We're sitting on $48 million in missing exemptions," she said. "You may have missed a homeowner, a senior freeze exemption. Or you may have mistakenly overpaid going back 20 years to the tune of $79 million."

Low and behold, Whimper called the hotline and learned that she was overpaid on her property taxes and was owed money.

"I wouldn't have even thought to check on it,' Whimper said.

About two weeks after she called, she got a check for $1,907. Whimper said she used the money to get her floors done.

"I am very happy with the floors. I've sent pictures to everyone," Whimper said. "It was very exciting to know that now I didn't have to pull out of my savings."

The phone bank is happening from 11-4:30 p.m. You must be a Cook County resident. You can ask questions about your property taxes and check to see if you have a refund. If the lines are tied up, you can visit cookcountytreasurer.com.
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