Washington state mulls bill to provide homeless with free ID cards

Washington state mulls bill to provide homeless with free ID cards
© Kerem Yucel/AFP/Getty Images

Washington state lawmakers are considering a bill that would give the state's homeless population a free ID card.

The bill would require the state's Department of Commerce and the Department of Licensing to develop a program that would provide homeless individuals with a so-called identicard.

The ID cards would be free to homeless people who do not already have an ID.

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“When you think about all the many, many instances that each one of us are required to show ID on a regular basis, I think it’s easy to understand what a barrier a lack of ID can be,” state Sen. Annette Cleveland (D), the bill's prime sponsor, said during a public hearing this week, according to The Seattle Times.

If passed, the program is expected to cost the state's Commerce Department and Department of Licensing about $460,000 between 2019 to 2021 in operating expenses, the paper noted. According to the state's Office of Financial Management, the cost would decrease to $355,200 from 2021 to 2023, the bill's supporters told the Times. 

“I can’t guarantee that everybody who gets ID will get off the streets,” Rud Browne, a Whatcom County Council member, told the paper. “I can guarantee that 100 percent of people who do not have ID will never get off the streets.”

Applicants for the program would be deemed eligible if they meet the definition of a sheltered or unsheltered homeless individual, live in Washington state and do not already have a state-issued ID.

Washington had the fifth-highest homeless population in the U.S. last year, according to the Times. According to government data, more than 22,000 people experienced homelessness on a single night last January.

More than 21 million people in the U.S., 11 percent of the overall population, did not have a state-issued photo ID in 2006, according to a Brennan Center survey