Gulfcoast Legal Services makes it easier for Manatee County residents to get birth certificates

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It’s nearly impossible to get some types of government assistance without proper identification. But it’s difficult for many people to get an identification card because they don’t have access to their birth certificate.

So Gulfcoast Legal Services is making it easier for people in Manatee County to get that important document.

Kathryn Hynes is a staff attorney Gulfcoast Legal Services and heads their birth certificate program.

“Primarily it is a program to help homeless and low-income persons obtain valid ID.”

Why is it important for people to have access to birth certificates?

“One of the things that I’m sure you’re aware of is the so-called Gold Star or Real ID requirements on our driver’s licenses and Florida IDs. That establishes that we have been verified and our history and background is known. And that is now by legislation required of all of us.

“And it’s important for my clients because they have to establish who they are, their identity, in order to receive whether it’s Social Security benefits or Medicare or Medicaid or food stamps through the stamp program, so-called food stamps. These are all public benefits that require us to prove our identity. All of us.”

Gulfcoast Legal Services’ birth certificate program is being expanded from Pinellas County to Manatee. Robin Stover, another attorney at Gulfcoast Legal Services, says during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s necessary for peoples’ safety to have access to housing.

“The program is really the gold standard program for this type of a service. Our birth certificate program in Pinellas, through our partners who we work with up there, is just the gold standard. Katherine’s done such an excellent job with that. That was recognized. And Manatee County recognized that this would be a very valuable service to be able to offer residents here.

“When the pandemic struck us, one of the important values that Manatee County recognized was that if people do not have their birth certificates, they can’t obtain their ID and very importantly if they don’t have ID, and they’re struggling to obtain housing, or do not have housing and have a path to get housing, they’re not going to be able to get housing unless they have valid identification.

“So, one of the important aspects of this is that Manatee County recognized that to keep people safe from the pandemic, and to give them a chance to isolate, they’re going to need to have their own housing. That was an important reason at this time that they thought to bring this birth certification down here. So that people can obtain identification to obtain housing, to protect themselves from the spread of COVID-19.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a directive yesterday halting the eviction of some renters through the end of 2020 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.


Watch much more of this interview here:


Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Here’s the AP story:

“The Trump administration has issued a directive halting the eviction of certain renters through the end of 2020 to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Senior administration officials say the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has broad authority to take actions deemed reasonably necessary to prevent the spread of a communicable disease. The president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Diane Yentel, says the order will provide relief for millions of anxious families, but adds that the action delays rather than prevents evictions. Officials say local courts would still resolve disputes over whether the moratorium applies in a particular case.”


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