Mutual of America
2019 Community Partnership Award Winners
Center for Driver’s License Recovery
Set of car keys inserted into car's steering column

Employment is essential to lifting individuals and families out of poverty. However, there is one common requirement that can make getting a well-paying job a challenge, particularly for low-income and minority job seekers: they need a valid driver’s license.

Recognizing the adverse impact that driver’s license suspensions have on lower-income families, local leaders in the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County got together to create the Center for Driver’s License Recovery (CDLR). Officially launched in 2007, CDLR is one of the first programs in the country designed to help low-income individuals resolve active suspensions or revocations that prevent them from obtaining or reinstating a valid driver’s license – whether due to prior incarceration or the inability to pay citations for nonmoving traffic violations.

CDLR is a collaborative effort: Wisconsin Community Services (WCS) provides program and administrative oversight and case management, working closely with participants, the courts and the Department of Transportation to create an individualized license recovery plan. Attorneys from Legal Action of Wisconsin provide free on-site legal services, including structuring alternatives to financial obligations, such as affordable payment plans or supervised community service. Milwaukee Area Technical College provides free office space, and the City of Milwaukee helps to fund the program.

Through August of 2019, CDLR has provided services to nearly 16,800 low-income Milwaukee residents and has helped more than 3,900 individuals recover their driver’s licenses. CDLR also has championed state-level reforms, including reducing the maximum length of a driver’s license suspension due to failure to pay a forfeiture from two years to one, and reducing suspensions resulting from uninsured accident damage judgments from 20 years to five.

“Gaining a driver’s license eliminates a significant barrier to employment,” said Clarence Johnson, Executive Director of WCS. “It also helps break the cycle of generational poverty by enabling individuals to drive their children to school, seek medical attention, and access food and other vital resources. With a license recovery rate approaching 70%, we are eager to share our program with other cities across the country.”

Wisconsin Community Services, Inc.
Center for Driver’s License Recovery
Legal Action of Wisconsin
City of Milwaukee
Milwaukee Area Technical College