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Barriers to Obtaining Identifying Documents: Documented Employment (Post 2 of 4)

In spring 2015, Kathleen Stephan, Community Resource and Quality Assurance Coordinator, began looking into why so many Bread for the City clients were suddenly struggling to obtain an ID. This blog series explores how the system disadvantages people of color living in poverty, and proposes possible improvements to policies that are currently preventing many DC residents from obtaining identification documents.

Privilege makes it easier to build an officially recognized ID paper trail. I’m still me and you’re still you without bank statements, pay statements, and a current lease, but the system wasn’t built to recognize someone without them.

The identifying documents system gives greater access to those with documented employment.

In 2014, DC had an annual average unemployment rate of 2.9% for white residents and 15.4% for black residents. In 2015 DC had the highest unemployment rate for people of color in the entire country. Yet, in this economic environment, three of four allowed proofs of Social Security number at the DC DMV are tied to employment (federal tax documents, pay statements). We need to be purposeful about examining policies to make sure that they do not create or perpetuate unjust barriers for people and communities of color. At Bread for the City, we call that our Racial Equity Lens.

These policies also impact residents receiving non-employment based income. For example, many elderly and/or disabled individuals rely on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from the Social Security Administration (SSA) to meet their needs. SSI is a financial benefit, based on age or disability, that is available to US citizens and qualifying immigrants with little to no income. Recipients do not receive annual tax forms or pay statements and the DMV does not currently accept their proof of benefits as proof of Social Security number. This privileging of employment based on income very often leaves an SSI recipient with no way to obtain an ID.unemployment rate

*Continue Reading: Part 1, Part 3

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