Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas announced Monday that her office was extending the time taxpayers have to pay their second installment Cook County property tax bills without incurring late fees. The bills are due Aug. 3, but taxpayers have until Oct. 1 to pay them without penalty.

“In my nearly 22 years as Treasurer, I’ve never told people not to pay their taxes,” Pappas said in a statement. “But the pandemic has changed a lot of things.”

In order to download a copy of a tax bill or to make payment, residents can visit Once there, they can select the blue box labeled “Pay Online for Free.” They can also search by property address or Property Index Number (PIN) in the treasurer’s searchable PIN database. There is no fee incurred by paying from a bank account, Pappas explained.

The announcement comes weeks after Pappas launched an initiative called Black Houses Matter, which she is “an offshoot of Black Lives Matter.”

“The reason we’re calling it Black Houses Matter, is because of some stats,” Pappas said in a July 21 Zoom town hall.

Pappas pointed out the disparity between Black and non-Black communities when it comes to the number of homes listed on the annual tax sale of delinquent properties.

“We are grabbing people by the neck,” the county treasurer said, adding that her Black Houses Matter initiative is an aggressive effort to draw people to her website to apply for property tax exemptions they may be eligible to receive and to find out whether or not they’re among thousands of people in the county who are owed tax refunds because they overpaid their property taxes.

“In all of Cook County right now for 2016, there are 40,000 parcels up for sale,” Pappas said. “The taxes on those parcels get sold. Almost 20,000 people in the entire county owe less than $1,000. And of those owing less than $1,000, for almost 8,000 of them, the mail came back to those homes, so they don’t even know they’re on those tax sales.”

Pappas said that many of the unwitting people on those tax sales are likely senior citizens who may not realize that they can wipe out their taxes by taking advantage of the homeowner’s exemption, the senior citizen’s exemption or the senior property tax freeze. They may even apply for tax refunds, if they’ve overpaid.

According to the Cook County Treasurer’s website, nearly 28,000 senior citizens in Cook County “could have saved hundreds of dollars on their property tax bills due August 1, 2019, by applying for exemptions they previously received.

“Those homeowners received the Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption for Tax Year 2017 but did not reapply for Tax Year 2018 (due in 2019). Of those seniors, roughly 21,000 previously received the Senior Freeze Exemption but also did not reapply.”

In Ald. Jason Ervin’s 28th Ward, the treasurer’s office listed 79 possible missing senior homestead exemptions and 68 possible missing senior freeze exemptions.