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Government & Politics

Driver License Amnesty Program Supporters Push to Extend It

A photo of Jodi Thomas, Anne Roche and Megan O'Dell
Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Jodi Thomas (center) participated in a workshop to help people get their licenses back, along with Anne Roche from Southeastern Ohio Legal Services (left) and Ohio Poverty Law staff attorney Megan O’Dell. ";

A six-month pilot program that sought to help low-income Ohioans get their suspended drivers licenses reinstated finished up last month. And with 3 million license suspensions active or pending, advocates are pushing for the amnesty program to be restarted and expanded.  

The initiative helped more than 76,000 Ohioans get back their licenses by waiving and reducing $63 million in reinstatement fees and penalties. Ohio Poverty Law staff attorney Megan O’Dell admits that is revenue government did not receive, but the Bureau of Motor Vehicles collected $3.6 million in fees that it may not have gotten otherwise.

"For someone who owed $10,000 in reinstatement fees, they’re most likely thinking, 'there’s no way I’m ever going to get my license valid again.'"

There’s a bill to make the amnesty program permanent and expand it to people receiving Medicaid, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, veterans benefits and other assistance. Supporters say not having a valid driver’s license is a major barrier to employment and substance abuse recovery.