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Philadelphia Begins Issuing Residents Municipal Photo IDs

The city-issued cards are being offered to residents who may not have easy access to state-issued identification. Several other cities have launched similar programs, including New York; Newark, N.J.; Chicago; San Francisco; and Detroit.

by Michaelle Bond, The Philadelphia Inquirer / April 4, 2019
Philadelphia City Hall Shutterstock/Marco Rubino

(TNS)— Philadelphia plans on Thursday to begin offering residents its new photo identification card — called the PHL City ID — an option meant to help Philadelphians who, due to citizenship status, poverty, or other circumstances, can’t easily get state-issued IDs.

The municipal IDs are designed to provide identification that people need to access social services, apply for housing and jobs, and open bank accounts. Philadelphia follows cities such as New York; Newark, N.J.; Chicago; San Francisco; and Detroit in offering such cards.

Philadelphians will be able to use them to sign in to schools and city buildings; access recreation centers, city programs, and city services; and provide ID to law enforcement officials within city limits. Residents cannot use the cards to drive, travel, or enter federal buildings.

As in other cities, Philadelphia officials also are trying to persuade businesses, banks, and arts and cultural institutions to accept the cards as proof of identity and to offer discounts through the IDs. Cities add perks to encourage all residents to get the IDs in an effort to remove stigma that might be associated with the cards.

Among the businesses offering discounts and benefits in Philadelphia are the Phillies, the African American Museum of Philadelphia, Las Cazuelas restaurant in Northern Liberties, Vista Peru restaurant in Old City, the Kimmel Center, and Lyft.

Philadelphia’s municipal IDs also can double as Free Library cards. The city’s Department of Prisons plans to offer the IDs to people it releases.

Advocates for people living in poverty or who are homeless have said they would like the state to make its IDs easier and cheaper to get, since those traditional IDs are more widely accepted.

The city’s IDs are cheaper than state IDs — ranging from $5 to $10 vs. $30.50 for the state’s identification card. Philadelphia residents aged 13 and older can get the cards, as long as they can prove their identities and addresses through combinations of documents, such as birth certificates, letters from social service agencies, school records, and bills.

Philadelphia politicians, including Mayor Jim Kenney when he was a Council member, have advocated for a municipal ID for years. Concerns over privacy and how the city would handle personal documents contributed to the delay of the program.

Advocates for undocumented immigrants said they worried that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would access the personal information of immigrants to deport them. The city has said it will not keep copies of documents used to apply for municipal IDs and will keep information confidential to the extent it legally can.

Residents can get municipal IDs during the day at the Philly 311 office, Room 167 of City Hall, throughout the week by appointment or by walking in on Wednesdays. The city also plans to distribute IDs at pop-up mobile sites, including at Broad Street Ministry and Prevention Point Philadelphia, with some evening and weekend hours.

The cards show each resident’s name, address, date of birth, photo, and unique identification number. Gender is optional. The cards also include issuance and expiration dates, and residents can choose to add emergency contact information or medical conditions.

©2019 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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