BFC Community Advocating for ID Access!
This past Monday, Bread for the City’s Kathleen Stephan along with several others from the BFC community testified at the DC Council oversight hearing of the DC Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
The hearings serve as annual check-ins with DC agencies about their work, and are an opportunity for community members to raise any concerns.
At the hearing, Kathleen gave an overview of why ID access is so important and the scope of the problem:
“It is vitally important to have proper government issued identification. Not having an ID can be an impediment to employment, housing, public benefits, or to entering government buildings. This is a growing problem across the city – during the calendar year 2015, Bread for the City received over 1,000 in-person visits from DC residents with questions about how to obtain a DC ID.
Several community members were on hand to share stories about the barriers they have faced at the DMV. BFC client leader, Ms. Hunt, spoke about how she has never been issued a correct birth certificate and as a result, has no way to prove her identity at the DMV. She said:
“The DMV requirement that I provide my birth certificate has kept me from getting an ID and blocked my job search. I want the DMV to create an exemption process for people in similar situations. I also want the DMV and Vital Records to work together in order to better assist applicants in obtaining their required documents.”
During the hearing, Bread for the City made the following asks of the DMV:
● The DMV should expand their lists of accepted documentation based on best practice in other REAL ID compliant jurisdictions. Many other states accept additional types of documentation and DC should follow their lead.
●The DMV should also create exemption processes for situations where individuals are unable to reasonably obtain the required proofs.
● The DMV should expand their current memorandum of understandings (MOU). As an example, the DMV currently has a MOU with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) that aims to easily provide IDs to returning citizens. However, it does not cover residents in halfway houses such as HOPE Village, many of whom are trying to seek employment and cannot do so without an ID.
● Lastly, the DMV should create a means-based fee waiver for non-driver’s ID and licenses. This would ease the financial burden on applicants, who could easily prove eligibility by showing proof of income or enrollment in other means-tested programs (such as SNAP, Medicaid or SSI).
Are you interested in helping these advocacy efforts? Please consider contacting your Council Member and reiterating the above asks!
Chairwoman Mary Cheh asked DMV Director Lucinda Babers to form a task-force to address ID issues. We’ve followed up with Director Babers to set up an initial meeting for March 2016 – keep an eye on our blog for updates on the date/time/location.
During the hearing, there was expression of fear that expanding the list of accepted proofs of residency will result in residency fraud. However, this argument rings hollow as a government issued photo ID is NOT required in order to establish residency for public assistance programs. The continued sharing of narratives from impacted individuals is integral to undoing the troubling stereotype that people living in poverty are trying to misuse resources.
We know that the DC DMV has an important mandate and we’re excited for this opportunity to work together towards more inclusive policies. We hope that more members of the community, like those who testified on Monday, will continue to come forward with their stories about the barriers they faced while trying to obtain identifying documents.