After stubbornly refusing for months to waive a $6.25 processing fee charged to homeless people seeking state identification cards, Pinellas County Tax Collector Diane Nelson has done the right thing by finally joining other Tampa Bay area counties and dropping the charge. An ID card is a critical tool for the homeless in finding a place to live and applying for jobs. By eliminating a bureaucratic hurdle at little cost to her office, Nelson has made it a bit easier for the homeless to become productive citizens.
The Legislature last year waived the $25 state ID card fee for the homeless, with proof generally provided by a homeless shelter. But since the homeless population is highly transient, a new ID was required for each new address that a homeless person claimed over the course of a year. That $6.25 processing fee could quickly add up. Other tax collectors — such as those in Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando, Sarasota and Lee counties — waived the fee, but not Pinellas. Nelson argued in May that she needed a year to study the issue.
It turned out she needed only five months before determining the fee waiver for roughly 125 people a month worked out to less than $9,400 a year out of the office's $15.4 million budget. Eliminating the $6.25 processing fee is a small price to pay for local government to fulfill its obligation to help the homeless succeed.