Barriers to Obtaining Identifying Documents: Potential Solutions (Post 4 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.
We’ve explored how DMV policies favor applicants with personal wealth, documented employment and private, stable housing privilege – and how this disproportionately impacts people of color in DC. There are however, some potential policies that agencies could adopt in order to rectify these barriers:
Ask the DMV to expand the list of acceptable proofs of eligibility — Other REAL ID compliant jurisdictions accept more expansive proofs of social security number and DC residency. Several states allow applicants to prove their residency with proof of public assistance (like food stamps or Medicaid enrollment), rent receipts, or letters from transitional housing programs. In some states, recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can already use Social Security Administration documents or their Medicare cards as proof of Social Security Number. Implementing similar policies in DC would expand access for those in need.
Ask the DMV to collaborate with with key agencies serving communities that have difficulty securing identity documents — Some government programs may already have verified participants’ information before they receive services. The DMV currently has such an arrangement with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. The DMV should explore more relationships in order to lower the runaround for marginalized groups that are already closely linked with government services.
Expand the DMV (ID, license) and DC Vital Records (birth certificate) fee waiver program for anyone whose income falls below the poverty line — A means-based, fee waiver program (cost is waived for anyone with proof of being below a certain income threshold) would lower the financial barrier to obtaining identifying documentation. Employers, housing programs and even education systems require proof of identity – creating a waiver would go a long way to assisting those in need with moving forward.