San Francisco is the first city in the nation to launch a Financial Justice Project to assess and reform how fees and fines impact our cities’ most vulnerable residents.
Too often government programs and courts levy fines and fees on people, partly to generate revenue to balance public budgets. There is often an insidious unintended impact of this practice---to push people into poverty. These fines and fees can knock people down so hard they can’t get back up. Poor people and people of color are usually hit the hardest. These financial penalties can make government a driver of inequality, not an equalizer.
Read more here about The Financial Justice Project.
Have SFMTA citations you can’t afford? For a limited time, enroll in a new low-income payment plan and get your late fees waived. SFMTA now offers a payment plan for eligible low-income customers. Before May 31st, all low-income customers can sign up for a monthly payment plan for a minimal fee, get more time to pay, and have the late fees removed. To find out if you’re eligible, see the MTA announcement here. To sign up for the payment plan, download the application at sfmta.com/PaymentOptions, and sign up at the SFMTA Customer Service Center at 11 South Van Ness Avenue.
San Francisco first in the nation to call for the elimination of criminal justice fees! Board of Supervisors President London Breed introduced legislation in February that would make San Francisco the first city and county in the nation to eliminate all locally-controlled fees to people exiting the criminal justice system. The fees, including paying for the cost of probation, electronic monitoring, and court usage fees, hit people with thousands of dollars of debt the moment they’re trying to get back on their feet. These fees are high pain- they result in barriers to a successful reentry- and low gain- they result in little revenue to the City and County. “This legislation is not about getting rid of consequences, said SF Financial Justice Project Director Anne Stuhldreher in the San Francisco Chronicle, “It’s about removing barriers to opportunity.” The draft legislation (available here) was also covered by and ABC7 News and other news outlets.
Chicago Moms and Grandmothers call for a local Financial Justice initiative! A Chicago nonprofit called Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI) worked with mothers and grandmothers to survey families across the city. They found that debt, fines and fees are holding families back and called for the creation of a Chicago Financial Justice initiative. Read their recommendations here and their full report here.
SF MTA cuts fees & makes it easier for low-income people to pay off parking tickets! Thanks to reforms that received a unanimous vote in January by the Board of Directors of the SF Municipal Transit Authority (SF MTA), it will be much easier for people with modest means to pay off their tickets, meet their obligations, and get out from under the debt. See our announcement of the reforms here. You can see a full description of the reforms adopted by the SF MTA here.
Six month report to the San Francisco Fines and Fees Task Force. In October, 2017, the San Francisco Fines and Fees Task Force reconvened to share updates, progress, and next steps. Click here to read the full progress report. Much progress has been made AND much more work needs to be toward our collective goal to reform fines, fees, and financial penalties that disproportionately impact low-income San Franciscans and people of color.
The Financial Justice Project & The Color of Money. Financial Justice Project Director Anne Stuhldreher was proud to join New America’s Family-Centered Social Policy program for a conversation with Mehrsa Baradaran, author of The Color of Wealth, and a panel of municipal leaders on the front lines of pioneering new strategies to advance economic justice by reforming how government works--and who it serves. Check out a video of the event here.
SF Financial Justice Project op-ed in the Washington Monthly. Financial Justice Project Director Anne Stuhldreher describes how struggling cities increasingly rely on steep fines and penalties that take a toll on those who can least afford them. Check out the op-ed here.
The SF Financial Justice Projects presents on webinar: How Fines and Fees Strip Wealth from Low-income Communities. The Financial Justice Project joined our colleagues at PolicyLink and The Ford Foundation to share the the latest research and strategies that state and local leaders can use to ensure that fines and fees do not contribute to burdensome debt, housing and employment barriers, and imprisonment and recidivism for low-income communities and people of color. We explored strategies that preserve assets for low-income individuals, particularly people of color, which ultimately can help reduce the racial wealth gap. Click here to view the webinar. Thanks to the Asset Funders Network for hosting this webinar.
Financial Justice Project named “An Innovator That is Changing America.” Check out this CityPalooza profile on The Financial Justice Project’s work to right-size fines and fees for low-income residents.
Do the Math: Money Bail Doesn't Add Up for San Francisco The Financial Justice project releases showing that nonrefundable bail fees strip $10-15 million per year from low-income neighborhoods and communities of color and offers recommendations for reform. The report has been covered by KQED's California Report, in the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Examiner, and ABC7 news. Treasurer José Cisneros authored this “op-chart” in the San Francisco Chronicle to show the inequitable impact of money bail on struggling San Franciscans.
SF Fines & Fees Task Force report generates national, statewide, and local news coverage! Our report and recommendations for reform have sparked discussion across the country. The Nation highlighted our recommended reforms in an article entitled “These cities aren’t waiting for Trump to self-destruct, they’re fighting back now.” Our report was also covered on KQED’s California Report and in Bay Area print and TV news coverage.
The San Francisco Fines & Fees Task Force releases its Initial Findings and Recommendations! City and County departments and community organizations came together to develop recommendations to reform the inequitable burden of fines, fees, and financial penalties on low income San Franciscans and communities of color. The Financial Justice Project coordinated the Task Force. Here are links to the report, press release, and executive summary.
NPR's All Things Considered profiles The Financial Justice Project! Listen here to the story : "San Francisco program aims to make fines more fair for the poor”
The Financial Justice Project goes to Washington! Financial Justice Project Director Anne Stuhldreher was honored to join Melody Barnes and Reverend Starsky Wilson at The Arena Stage in Washington DC. for a 30-minute riveting discussion: The Price of Being Poor: How Fines and Fees Entrench Inequality and What Has to Change. You can watch the discussion here Their panel was part of a great day at the Aspen Institute’s Summit on Inequality and Opportunity. Reverend Starsky Wilson is the President and CEO of The Deaconess Foundation and co-chaired The Ferguson Commission. Melody Barnes is the Chair of the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions and is the former Director of The Domestic Policy Council under President Obama.
Juvenile Fees Are Self Defeating. The Financial Justice Project Director Anne Stuhldreher calls on California to stop charging fees to parents whose children our locked up in juvenile halls. It’s time to put families before fees, Stuhldreher writes. Check out her Sacramento Bee op-ed.
Check out "Charged"-- a profile of The Financial Justice Project The California Sunday Magazine
Treasurer José Cisneros announces The Financial Justice Project in this op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle. He writes: “I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable when our local government levies fines on people who cannot afford to pay them. Basically, we are guilty of a form of predatory government”
On January 31, Treasurer José Cisneros testified on at a statewide hearing on our system of bail. The Treasurer stated: “I firmly believe that when City and County resources are spent to keep people in jail, the decision should be based on the risk they pose to our communities, not on the money they have in their bank accounts.” Treasurer Cisneros also spoke to the need for increased oversight of the private bail bond system, the discriminatory nature of bail for low income communities, and the amount of wealth bail strips from San Francisco’s low income neighborhoods. Read the Treasurer’s full testimony here.
Director of Financial Justice Anne Stuhldreher describes how 30 states restrict the voting rights of Americans who owe fines and fees to the criminal justice system. Read this election day op-ed she co-authored in The Washington Post.