Governor Signs Chiu Bill to Help Homeless Individuals Obtain Birth Certificates

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Law reduces barriers for homeless individuals and homeless youth attempting to secure identification and access benefits

SACRAMENTO—Legislation by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) to waive a fee for homeless individuals who seek to obtain a certified copy of a birth certificate was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown today. Assembly Bill 2490 will waive the $25 fee that the California Department of Public Health Vital Records charges when issuing a certified copy of a birth certificate.  

“We should not be imposing prohibitive fees on our homeless residents just for trying to establish their identities,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “We need to make it easier for them to apply for identification and access benefits so that they can get into permanent housing and become financially stable.”

Without a birth certificate a person cannot secure an identification card, which is required to access many benefits and services available to individuals experiencing homelessness. Lack of an identification card also presents challenges when opening a bank account or applying for a job. Removing this barrier and making it easier for homeless individuals and youth to obtain identification will open up greater opportunity and support for residents experiencing homelessness.

The lack of identification presents a particular problem for homeless LGBTQ youth, who make up a disproportionate amount of the State’s homeless population. In California, between 15 and 25 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ. In San Francisco and Los Angeles, LGBTQ youth make up 40 percent of the homeless populations in those cities. In addition to the variety of reasons youth experience homelessness, LGBTQ youth often experience familial conflict regarding their sexual orientation or gender identity, which can compel or force them to leave home. Equality California sponsored AB 2490.

“We're deeply grateful to Governor Brown and Assemblymember Chiu for their commitment to ending California's youth homelessness crisis,” said Rick Zbur, Equality California Executive Director. “Reducing the barriers faced by LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness when they apply for identification and access services is critical to ensuring they have access to the same opportunities as their peers.”

While it is common to obtain certified copies of birth certificates from local county clerks offices, which do provide hardship waivers, many homeless individuals may not be able to travel to the county of their birth or may be unsure of their county of birth. Thus, they need to obtain the birth certificate at the state level from the Department of Public Health Vital Records at a cost of $25. Waiving this prohibitive fee for homeless individuals is crucial to allowing them to acquire identification, apply for services, and gain access to greater opportunities. In order to receive this waiver, a homeless service provider must sign an affidavit confirming that the applicant is experiencing homelessness.

The law goes into effect on January 1, 2019.

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