ORLANDO, Fla. - Advocates of foster children are fighting to make a pilot driver’s license program permanent.
The “Keys to Independence” pilot program kicked off in 2014 and will lose its funding this year unless legislators pass a bill to keep it.
Taj Banks, one of the foster children who benefited from the program, said as a kid in foster care, he had trouble getting a driver’s license.
“The foster care system didn’t want to pay for it,” Banks told Channel 9's Cierra Putman.
Banks eventually earned his driver’s license when he aged out of the system at age 18. He said the license made a big difference in his life: “I was able to get a job.”
Starting in 2014, legislators set aside $800,000 a year for the three-year “Keys to Independence” pilot program. It paid for driver’s education classes, insurance, and license fees.
“That can add up to a few hundred dollars, and that’s a few hundred dollars that our kids in the dependency system don’t have,” said Bethanie Barber of the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association.
Barber is fighting to make the program permanent so that the funding doesn’t go away. She thinks the numbers prove that it’s a success.
Banks hopes advocates like Barber can continue to make sure other kids get a chance behind the wheel.
House members in Tallahassee on Thursday will have a first reading of the bill to keep the program.
Advocates claim that approving the bill won’t increase the budget because the money was already set aside for the pilot program.
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