CICERO, Ill. (CBS) — Forbearance – that act of putting your debts on hold – is a word many people heard for the first time during the pandemic.

But now, with the economy climbing back, lenders are losing their leniency. CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas met a Cicero man who learned the hard way.

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Playing sad songs is Dan Kalena’s specialty lately. He’s a Social Security and disability recipient who recently fell on hard times.

Music is one of the only things helping him cope.

“Keeps my mind off of things to some degree,” Kalena said.

But he can’t sing away his troubles.

Kalena said his car was recently repossessed. He walked outside and saw the car was gone from its parking spot.

He said he was making partial payments, but PNC Bank rejected his forbearance application – even though the bank’s website touts its financial hardship policies.

“You’re going to take this away from me and punish me for something I had no control over?” Kalena said. “I didn’t expect the pandemic. I didn’t expect my health problems. All I was asking was for a little leeway.”

A recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found forbearance on auto loans surged during the pandemic.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, April or May of last year, lenders were very willing to approve forbearance,” said Jon Rose of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

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Experts say lenders are now raising the bar – in some cases requiring more information on how the pandemic is hurting you.

McNicholas: “Is that leniency we’ve seen from some of these banks, is that leniency dwindling now?”

Teresa Murray: “I think it probably is.”

Murray is the consumer watchdog director with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

“Because things are bouncing back, I think that these banks feel like they have space to come down a little harder on consumers,” Murray said.

PNC Bank sent Kalena a warning letter that the car could be repossessed. But when he called, he says PNC sang a different tune — and said his partial payments might help him out.

“They said, ‘As long as you can try to do something, something is better than nothing,’ is what they said,” Kalena said.

Now he’s left with an empty driveway, and another sad song.

After we reached out, PNC Bank called Kalena directly and said they’re looking into his case to see if they can work something out with him.

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Experts say if you need forbearance, ask for it early before you get behind on your loan.

Tim McNicholas