As of July 1st, a homeless person, child or youth born in the State of California can get a free certified birth certificate from the county of their birth. And as of January 1, 2016, a homeless person, child or youth will be able to get a free new or replacement California photo identification card from the Department of Motor Vehicles. These public records fee waivers were provided during the 2013-14 California legislative session by the passage of Assembly Bill 1733 whose primary author was former Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva and whose joint authors were Speaker of the Assembly Toni G. Atkins and Assemblymember Brian Maienschein.
The authors of AB 1733 describe its significance as follows:
"AB 1733 is an important step to stability [for homeless people]. Being able to get a birth certificate, and then an ID are some of the first steps to accessing services. Many of the non-profits simply do not have $25.00 or any cash to give out to begin this process. Without an ID, those experiencing homelessness are stuck." - former Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva
"Sometimes small changes can make a big difference. I was pleased to be a joint author for legislation that will waive the fee for homeless persons to obtain state identification. This is a simple, common sense solution that removes a significant barrier for people who are homeless. Having ID should result in increased benefits, and at the very least, it removes one of the many stresses that accompany homelessness." - Speaker of the Assembly Toni G. Atkins
"AB 1733 breaks down barriers for a person experiencing homelessness to be able to receive much needed identification documentation that will in turn allow access to services," said Assemblymember Brian Maienschein. "This will reduce long-term reliance on emergency services and move people into programs that provide a permanent solution to homelessness." - Assemblymember Brian Maienschein
Prior to the passage of AB 1733, homeless people had to pay the standard $25 fee for a certified birth certificate. Through AB 1733, Section 103577 was added to the Health and Safety Code, whereby this fee is waived.
However, the homeless person, child or youth, as defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. Section. 11301, et seq.) will now have to provide a completed affidavit form from the State of California, attesting to their homeless status, to be completed by a "homeless services provider" which include
"(A) A governmental or nonprofit agency receiving federal, state, or county or municipal funding to provide services to a "homeless person" or "homeless child or youth," or that is otherwise sanctioned to provide those services by a local homeless continuum of care organization.
(B) An attorney licensed to practice law in this state.
(C) A local educational agency liaison for homeless children and youth designated as such pursuant to Section 11432(g)(1)(J)(ii) of Title 42 of the United States Code, or a school social worker.
(D) A human services provider or public social services provider funded by the State of California to provide homeless children or youth services, health services, mental or behavioral health services, substance use disorder services, or public assistance or employment services.
(E) A law enforcement officer designated as a liaison to the homeless population by a local police department or sheriff's department within the state." Health and Safety Code 1733, (d) (3) (A-E)
Please note this fee waiver applies only to an application for a certified birth certificate for a homeless person, child or youth, made to any of the 58 counties recorder's officers or any branch thereof in California. The $25 fee will continue to be required of the homeless person, child or youth if the application is made to State of California Department of Public Health - Vital Records.
The State of California Department of Public Health (DPH) has provided a standard Affidavit of Homeless Status for Fee Exempt Certified Copy of Birth Certificate. However, there is no standard county recorder birth certificate application form for the 58 counties. And there may be additional documents that may have a financial impact upon the application. For example, with every mailed-in application, the County of Los Angeles requires a Certificate of Identify/Sworn Statement - Birth & Death which must be notarized at the cost of $10 a signature.
Regarding whether counties can assess search fees, the DPH, through its FAQs: Affidavit for Free Certified Birth Certificates Assembly Bill (AB) 1733, has provided the California counties with the following response:
"...If a homeless person was not born in the county of search can counties charge a search fee? No, counties may assist in searching for the record before the applicant makes a request. HSC Section 103575 provides that the state or local registrar or county recorder may, without a fee, verify date and place of birth, when the applicant presents sufficient information to identify the birth record. Counties may also refer applicants to the Quality Assurance and Intelligence Reform (QAIR) Section with the State Registrar at (916) 558-8116 to verify a county of birth. The homeless applicant should then contact the appropriate county to obtain the birth record."
With regard to obtaining a California Department of Motor Vehicles-issued photo identification card, the standard fee is $28 for an original or duplicate ID card. However, currently certain agencies, approved by DMV, may issue the "Verification for Reduced Fee Identification Card" form through which a homeless person, child or youth need only pay $8 for their ID card.
However, AB 1733 amends Vehicle Code 14902 such that as of January 1, 2016, the standard $28 fee and the $8 fee through the verification form will be waived for a homeless person, child or youth. I have been informed that the regulations for implementation of this waiver are currently being created.
On behalf of homeless people and service providers, I sincerely thank John J. Bauters, Policy Director for Housing California, former Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, Speaker of the Assembly Toni G. Atkins, Assemblymember Brian Maienschein and the California Legislature for their efforts to help homeless people through AB 1733.
I look forward to your comments.