Dear <<First Name>>,
It’s a common dilemma for the teenagers who walk into the office of Asher Waite-Jones at Legal Services for Children, a San Francisco legal aid organization.
They’ve gotten a few parking tickets or citations when they could not pay their bus fare, and they cannot pay them off because they’re homeless or living on their own and barely scraping by.
They almost always want to pay and meet their responsibilities, says Waite-Jones. But they simply cannot come up with a few hundred dollars. “The debt really weighs down on them,” said Jones. “They feel terrible.” Even though they want to pay off their debt, their options were limited. To enroll in a payment plan or community service, individuals had to pay large, upfront enrollment fees, in addition to paying or working off the price of the ticket.
Thanks to reforms that received a unanimous vote last week by the Board of Directors of the SF Municipal Transit Authority (SF MTA), it will be much easier for people with modest means to pay off their tickets, meet their obligations, and get out from under the debt.
“These challenges are often invisible, but have real impacts on our customers,” said SFMTA Board President Cheryl Brinkman.
Previously, people had to pay over $60 to get on a payment plan to pay off tickets, and they had to pay them off within 14 weeks. Now low-income people can pay $5 to get on a payment plan and will have up to 18 months to pay off their citations. Anyone with incomes below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line ($23,760 for a household of one; $48,000 for a household of four) will be eligible. Payment plan fees will be capped at $25 for the general population.
And from March 1 to May 31, 2018, low-income people who have outstanding parking tickets can bring in their tickets, have all late fees removed and get on the low-cost payment plan. SF MTA’s reforms build off of a parking ticket reform bill that was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in October. SF MTA will have more information available about these programs available soon.
SF MTA also lowered fees for people who want to complete community service to pay their tickets. Previously, people had to pay anywhere from $75 to $155 if they wanted to perform community service at local nonprofits to pay off their citations. Now, people whose incomes are below 200% of The Federal Poverty Line (PFL) will pay NO fees once a year if they want to perform community service to meet their obligations. And the overall community service fees will be lowered for everyone.
You can see a full description of the reforms adopted by the SF MTA here.
The proposed reforms grew out of the recommendations of the San Francisco Fines and Fees Task Force, which put forward recommendations to alleviate the burden of fines, fees, and tickets on low income San Franciscans. The SF Financial Justice Project staffed the Task Force.
Big thanks to Legal Services for Children, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Bay Area Legal Aid, the Coalition on Homelessness for working with us to make these reforms real.
Yours in Financial Justice,
Anne & Christa