DPS announces details of DRP Indigency Program
The Texas Department of Public Safety is now offering an Indigency Program for surcharges owed under the Driver Responsibility Program. The Texas Legislature authorized an Indigency program to provide low-income drivers the ability to pay surcharges, bringing them into compliance with the surcharge law and allowing them to become licensed and insured drivers.In related news, the Texas Senate just passed legislation today that would require the Department of Public Safety to implement an "incentive" program to let drivers who want to pay off their surcharge up front do so with a substantial discount to provide greater incentives for compliance, and to prevent so many drivers from beginning to make payments then defaulting before the three years are up. The bill was supported by Grits and hospital interests (who helped negotiate the provisions last year in a DPS working group of which your correspondent was a member), so with luck it will earn the Governor's approval and DPS can implement the rules, which were enshrined in the Texas Administrative Code last year but left unimplemented awaiting "direction" from the Legislature. Now that the Lege has provided that direction (and many thanks to Reps Ryan Guillen and Armando Walle along with Sen. John Whitmire for helping push this through), it's time for DPS to move forward and finish the job it began nearly nearly two years ago when this blog first petitioned DPS for rulemaking on the subject.
The Indigency Program applies only to individuals living at or below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (see chart below). The Indigency Program reduction does not apply to any other fees besides surcharges that a driver may owe DPS.
125% of the 2011 HHS Poverty Guidelines Persons in Family
48 Contiguous States and D.C. 1 $ 13,612.50
2 $ 18,387.50
3 $ 23,162.50
4 $ 27,937.50
5 $ 32,712.50
6 $ 37,487.50
7 $ 42,262.50
8 $ 47,037.50
For each additional person, add $ 4,775.00
Those qualifying for the Indigency Program will pay 10 percent of the original amount owed for all surcharges combined, for a maximum amount of $250. (Service fees will still apply.) Any payments already made will be applied to the reduced amount. If prior payments are more than the reduced amount owed, no payment will be required. There will be no refunds for payments that exceed the indigency maximum.
To request a reduction, drivers must complete the application in full, and the application must be notarized. The completed, notarized application should be mailed to the Municipal Services Bureau (PO Box 16733, Austin, Texas 78761-6733) for processing.
The Indigency Program application is available online by visiting www.txsurchargeonline.com or calling the toll-free number 1-800-688-6882 and selecting option 7. Easy-to-read instructions are also included with the application.
Once the application is approved, any surcharge suspensions will be cleared on the applicant’s driving record within three business days. Applicants will be mailed a notice with the reduced amount to pay and the due date. Payment of the reduced amount and other fees that are owed must be received within 180 days from the date of the notice. If payment of the reduced amount is not received by the due date, the suspension of driving privileges will be reinstated. However, the reduced amount will still apply until it is paid in full.
The Driver Responsibility Program, which assesses fees for a variety of driving-related offenses, was passed by the Legislature in 2003 and directed the Department to administer the program. Traffic offenses that carry an automatic surcharge for three years include DWI-related offenses, driving with no insurance, driving while license suspended, driving without a license and accumulating too many points because of tickets. (For example, the fee for a first-time DWI offender is $1,000 per year for three years.) The revenue generated by DRP goes to trauma centers, emergency medical services and the General Revenue Fund.
I'd have much preferred the program were abolished altogether, but these are both quite positive, incremental reforms that demonstrate state leaders are at least aware of the problems caused by this Orwellian-named civil fee, which is charged in addition to regular criminal fines and penalties.