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Government/Politics

Advocates Want Green Light For Ohio Driver's License Amnesty To Go On

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.
Karen Kasler
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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 after the close of that program - advocates estimate 3 million license suspensions are active or pending. So they're pushing for the amnesty program to be restarted permanently 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. The average waived per person was $1,270.

Ohio Poverty Law staff attorney Megan O’Dell admitted that is revenue that government didn’t get, but the Bureau of Motor Vehicles collected $3.6 million in fees that it may not have gotten otherwise.

“A lot of these fees the BMV was not going to see anyways. 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," O'Dell said.

The program ended on July 31. But it will resume on October 17, 2019, and applications will be accepted and processed through the end of the year.

There’s a bill to make the amnesty program permanent and expand it to people receiving Medicaid, SNAP, veterans’ benefits and other assistance.

Supporters say not having a valid driver’s license is a major barrier to employment and substance abuse recovery.

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