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San Francisco Mayor proposes elimination, reduction of fees, fines on people with low income

Christian Fernsby |
San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Wednesday proposed the elimination or reduction of numerous municipal fines and fees that have an adverse, disproportionate impact on people with low incomes and communities of color.

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The Mayor's Budget Office and the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector's Financial Justice Project developed these recommendations after conducting a review of municipal fines and fees in advance of Breed's proposed budget for the Fiscal Year 2021-2022, the announcement said.

These actions aim to lift a financial burden of residents with low incomes who have struggled most during the COVID-19 health pandemic. The proposed reforms are part of the efforts to ensure that San Francisco has a strong and equitable recovery, and the next step in a multi-year process to reform the burdensome system of fines and fees.

"Fines and fees impact all of us differently, and for some people, a single fee can have a dramatic impact that can make it hard to put food on the table or pay their rent," said Breed.

"Fines and fees that exceed people's ability to pay them are often a lose-lose, for people and for government," said Treasurer Jose Cisneros. "And we should not balance our budget on the backs of people who can least afford it."

The city's Fiscal Year 2021-2022 budget proposes the elimination of the Street Artist License Fee, which amounts to 849 U.S. dollars.

The budget also proposes to eliminate Medical Examiner fees that are primarily charged to family and friends of deceased, typically for deceased people who were experiencing homelessness or very low-income crime victims. These fees include proof of death letter, statement of non-contagion, removal of remains, and cremation, which will cost about 2,000 dollars altogether.

Over the coming year, the Department of Public Health, the Fire Department, and the Recreation and Parks Department will also develop or enhance fine and fee discounts for low-income people based on their ability to pay, according to the announcement.

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