SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Treasurer José Cisneros hope to help the city’s low income residents by eliminating fees that disproportionately affect them in their new budget, the city announced Wednesday.

In the proposed budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the Mayor’s budget office and the treasurer identified several fees for elimination across all departments, including animal care and the arts. The process already eliminated other costs, including criminal justice fees, making jail phone calls free, and eliminating overdue library fines.

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“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. “We know that now is the time to be investing in people who are struggling to get back on their feet as we all do the work to lift this City out of this pandemic. We have made significant progress over the last few years to make meaningful change on fines and fees, and we will continue to make more changes over the coming year.”

According to the Mayor’s office, the proposed reforms are part of Breed’s plans to ensure that San Francisco recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic equitably. The citywide Economic Recovery Task Force prioritized conducting a citywide review of fines and fees as part of the City’s recovery efforts.

Among the fees the FY 2021-2022 budget proposes eliminating (with text from the city):

The Street Artist License Fee ($849), which has been historically paid by artists who are low-income, immigrants, and/or aging. This license fee permits these vendors to sell their art in designated spaces to support themselves and their families. The elimination of this fee will ensure stronger participation in the San Francisco Arts Commission program, help expand diverse, vibrant, revenue-generating marketplaces for artists, and attract local and tourism dollars for handmade creations.

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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 ($10), statement of non-contagion ($10), disaster bag ($67), removal of remains ($632), and cremation ($1,196).

Fees associated with City ID cards ($6 for youth and $18 for adults). These fees are primarily paid by undocumented and low-income individuals and can be barriers to obtaining this form of identification.

Two Animal Care and Control fees: owner surrender of animal ($33) and dog license late fees ($32). These fees are challenging to pay for low-income residents.
The budget also has several departments reviewing fees to possibly remove them, including the fire department, and Parks and Recreation. It also proposes having the Department of Public Health collaborating with other departments to create an “equity applicant” category for fees “that likely impact people with low incomes, such as fees associated with mobile and temporary food facilities, as well as massage and tattoo parlors.”

“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. “Someone should not face a bigger consequence because their bank account is smaller. And we should not balance our budget on the backs of people who can least afford it.”

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It’s unclear exactly when the $13.1 billion budget will go before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, but they are expected to vote on it this summer.