Politics

Mass. lawmakers weighing bill that would expand ID access for those experiencing homelessness 

“Now is the time to break down bureaucratic barriers that fuel the cycle of poverty.”

Craig F. Walker
The Massachusetts State House. Craig F. Walker

The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday unanimously approved two new bills, one of which would expand access to state IDs for people experiencing homelessness. 

The bill, S.2612 or “An Act to Provide Identification to Youth and Adults Experiencing Homelessness,” seeks to give access to state identification services to unhoused individuals who otherwise might not have the funds or residence to obtain an ID. 

If the bill goes into law, the fees associated with applying for a state ID would be waived. In addition, those applying for an ID could meet the proof of residency requirement by providing documentation from a service provider, such as a homeless shelter, showing the individual is receiving state services. 

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“Currently, people experiencing homelessness face significant financial and bureaucratic barriers when they attempt to obtain an ID,” state Sen. Harriette L. Chandler of Worcester, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement. “Now is the time to break down bureaucratic barriers that fuel the cycle of poverty, and to ensure equality for all the Commonwealth’s residents as we look towards a post-pandemic world.”

According to WBUR, Chandler introduced a similar measure last year but it did not move forward after being introduced in the House of Representatives. 

In addition to the ID bill, the senate also adopted S.2616, which would allow adoption by certain close family members. Titled “An Act Expanding Access to Adoption,” the legislation would allow people to adopt younger siblings, nieces, or nephews, which currently isn’t allowed under state law.

According to state Sen. Joan B. Lovely of Salem, who sponsored the legislation, the bill seeks to support vulnerable youth without parents across the Commonwealth.

“I am pleased to have sponsored S.2616 to better reflect and support residents across our Commonwealth who love and care for another,” Lovely said in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic has left many of our vulnerable youth without parents, making familial relationships and bonds more important than ever.”

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Massachusetts currently is one of only two states in the United States that bans such adoptions, according to lawmakers.

Both bills passed the state senate unanimously in a 39-0 vote and will now move on to the House for consideration.

In a statement, Senate President Karen E. Spilka expressed her support for both pieces of legislation..

“These two bills will support some of the most vulnerable individuals in our Commonwealth,” Spilka said. “The benefits are clear: providing access to identification for people who would otherwise struggle to receive it lifts up the lives of those in need. Separately, it is also time we recognized that in some cases, close relatives, even siblings, are the best choice for an adoptive guardian. Both bills will serve to strengthen people’s lives in a tangible way.”

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