The city spelled out new details this week on how it plans to operate its municipal ID program, including how the cards will handle gender, a comprehensive list of accepted identifying documents, and how much the cards will cost.
The cards will be significantly cheaper than state-issued IDs — ranging from $5 to $10 vs. $30.50 for the state’s, according to proposed regulations the city posted online Wednesday.
The cards will be available to all city teenagers and adults. But as in other cities that offer them — including Newark, Chicago, and New York City — they would especially appeal to people who face hurdles in getting standard government-issued identification cards, including undocumented immigrants, young people, and people who are homeless, for whom cost can be a barrier.
Identification cards open doors to applying for housing and jobs, accessing social services, and opening bank accounts.
The public has until mid-March to review the regulations and request a hearing on them by writing to the Department of Records in City Hall. If no one requests a hearing, the regulations will take effect.
The city plans to start distributing the IDs in the next few months.
Residents will be able to use the IDs as Free Library cards. The city also is asking banks to accept the IDs as proof of identity, and arts and cultural institutions and businesses to offer discounts through them. The Department of Prisons plans to offer municipal IDs to people being released.
A municipal ID will display a resident’s name, date of birth, address, and signature, as well as the date the card was issued and a photograph taken by the city.
Including gender on the card is optional and will be marked with an “F” for female, “M” for male, “NB” for non-binary — people who do not identify with one gender — and “X” if the person chooses not to include gender.
The proposed regulations also address Philadelphians who are transgender. Photographs on identifying documents “must reasonably resemble” the applicant. “The mere fact that a person appears to be of a different gender than as appears to be reflected in photographic identification shall not be a basis to determine the photograph does not reasonably resemble the applicant,” according to the regulations.
As with other forms of government ID, such as driver’s licenses, residents will need to prove their identity, age, and residency with a combination of supporting documents weighted using a point system. Those documents range from birth certificates to letters from social service agencies and SEPTA Key cards.
Adam Bruckner, founder of Philly Restart, which helps pay for IDs for people such as those who are homeless or addicted to drugs, said most of his clients had Pennsylvania IDs at one point and either lost or didn’t renew them. Because PennDot has their information in its system, they can get new IDs just by paying the fee; they don’t have to gather often hard-to-get supporting documents.
He said the city also will have to work to build trust among residents, as well as landlords, small businesses, and other entities it wants to accept the cards.
“The benefit of saving $20 might not be worth the challenges that come with the first year of trying to get somebody to accept your ID,” Bruckner said. “Knowing our clientele, my guess is they won’t risk the $10 right away."
Philly Restart would rather see Pennsylvania lower the cost of state-issued IDs, which are universally accepted.
Critics of municipal IDs question the need for cities to create a new class of card.
The city’s program has been delayed partly because advocates for immigrants worry the federal government could use the identifying information and documents shared with local government to find and deport undocumented immigrants.
The city reiterated in its proposed regulations that it will not keep or copy any identifying documents and will keep applicants’ information confidential to the extent it legally can. The city will record each applicant’s name, date of birth, and municipal ID number, and the dates the card was issued and expires.
Veterans can include a special designation on their cards. Residents also can include emergency contact and medical information.