Thousands of Virginians have already applied to have their drivers licenses reinstated. And the program is only days old.
Governor Ralph Northam was just one day into a tour to explain how Virginians can get their drivers licenses reinstated. But he was already noting the progress. "Actually to process that many individuals I think is something we should be proud of," Northam told a group at the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
At an outreach event in Roanoke Tuesday, Northam said 26,000 Virginians have taken advantage of a new policy that went into effect July 1. It allows people who had their drivers licenses suspended for unpaid court costs and fees to get them reinstated. Up to 600,000 people are affected by the change.
Northam says it’s about equity and access. "It’s really common sense. If someone is expected to pay their court fees and fines, they have to work. And if they don’t have their driver’s license, they can’t drive to work," Northam noted.
The Housing Authority's vice president, Evangeline Richie, says the change will help people served by the organization. "So in allowing a lot of individuals to be able to obtain their drivers licenses, to obtain employment, it will help those individuals become self sufficient," Richie said.
The change does not eliminate the requirement to pay court costs and licenses that are suspended or revoked for other reasons will stay that way.
Workers at a mobile Department of Motor Vehicles office outside the event Tuesday said they had processed about a hundred customers in just a few hours. Twenty-one DMV offices are extending their Saturday hours for the next two weekends to meet the expected high demand.
The license suspension policy was changed as part of a budget amendment during this year’s General Assembly session. Northam and state senator John Edwards said they hope the change can be made permanent next year.