Alexis P. Davis
November 5, 2019

Safeguarding the Roads: Granting Driver’s License Access to All Floridians

This post was last updated on September 10, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.
On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

Executive Summary

For most people, getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage. It signals freedom and independence — for teens to working people to seniors. It is one of the first questions on a standard job application: Do you have a reliable means of transportation? This is especially necessary in a sprawling state like Florida, where a lack of strong public transportation virtually mandates having a driver’s license and personal vehicle.

Yet presently, Florida’s restrictive driver’s license law is putting communities at risk — and hampering critical revenue gains — by forcing the 685,000 undocumented immigrants who are of driving age to navigate the state’s increasingly-congested roads without licenses. Until a more straightforward and affordable path to citizenship is implemented federally, Florida can act right now to further policies for immigrants who are already here, working, studying and otherwise contributing to our communities. One such policy that 14 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have advanced is allowing driver’s licenses for all, including immigrants who are undocumented.

At a time when Florida is anticipating a large revenue shortfall, inclusive policies that also generate state funds are more crucial than ever. Expanding driver’s license eligibility to include all Floridians — regardless of immigration status — would not only make immigrants’ everyday lives easier and improve public safety, but it would result in an estimated $68.6 million in state revenue within the first three years of implementation. This revenue projection is conservative, as the number of immigrants who are undocumented is largely underestimated and this report does not account for all revenue associated with new licenses and vehicle purchases, such as local sales surtaxes on vehicle purchases, fuel taxes and recurring fees.

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