Dane County, YWCA Partner on Program to Help Moms, Dads Support Families
January 24, 2011
Joshua Wescott, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 669-5606
Expanded Effort Helps Those who Need Drivers Licenses to Get to Work
Dane County is partnering with the YWCA on a new initiative to help individuals without drivers licenses earn the right to drive so they have a way to get to and from work to support their families, County Executive Kathleen Falk announced today.
A review of the Dane County criminal justice system completed in 2010 found one of the primary barriers preventing those of lower incomes, including minorities, from holding down jobs, was not having adequate transportation to get to work. This new effort, a primary recommendation of the Dane County Task Force on Racial Disparities Report, aims to help those who have their drivers licenses suspended for reasons like unpaid speeding tickets, take steps to legally re-earn the right to drive.
“Thanks to this innovative effort by the YWCA, moms and dads who want to support their families can work off unpaid traffic tickets and legally get back behind the wheel,” Falk said. “This program isn’t a handout or a freebie, but instead guides those who want a better life for themselves and their families toward earning the independence that comes with being able to drive.”
Falk noted that having a drivers’ license not only helps with transportation to work, but also that many jobs require employees to have a license.
In Wisconsin, drivers’ licenses can be revoked or suspended for everything from unpaid speeding tickets to child support payments that aren’t made. In the cases of old traffic tickets, this YWCA program works with the legal system to substitute community service instead of financial penalties. That allows individuals to better their community while re-earning the right to drive.
"People need an opportunity to break the cycle of fines, unpaid tickets and other barriers to get their driver's license. This program is a step in that direction." Celia Jackson, Chair of the Dane County Task Force on Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System Implementation Team. She noted this problem has been especially evident among minorities. The 2010 report found in Dane County, an African-American is nearly eight times more likely to have a license revocation/suspension than a Caucasian.
“Having a driver’s license to get to and from work is fundamental for many people to accessing family-supporting employment,” said Eileen Mershart, YWCA CEO. “Through the Driver’s License Recovery Program we aim to create alternative means of paying for moving violation tickets for low-income individuals and reinstate their license so they can earn family-supporting wages. Thank you to Dane County and Kathleen Falk for supporting this important initiative,” Mershart added.
Falk’s 2011 budget that was passed by the county board included $25,000 in first time county funding for this effort. Since its creation in 2008, this YWCA program has assisted over 100 families.
One-on-one counseling sessions for those interested in the program are held the fourth Monday of every month at the YWCA offices located on Latham Drive (just off Greenway Cross) on Madison’s south-side. Those who have lost their licenses for drunk driving or OWI citations are not eligible to participate.