Sacramento looks to reform fines and fees that disproportionately affect disadvantaged communities

Sacramento City and County have been chosen to participate in the inaugural cohort of the Cities & Counties for Fine and Fee Justice challenge to reform harmful fines and fees.

In partnership with PolicyLink, San Francisco’s Financial Justice Project and the Fines and Fees Justice Center, Sacramento was awarded a $50,000 grant and access to policy, research and data experts to develop customized solutions to fine and fee reform, with community input, and work with a network of other cities and counties across the country to address institutional inequities for disadvantaged communities and communities of color.

“My colleagues and I have worked to shift how we invest in our most underserved communities,” said Councilmember Jay Schenirer. “We cannot do business as usual and must do even more to address the structural and economic inequities in our city. The fines and fee justice program can be truly responsive to the needs and concerns of our residents. That fix-it ticket – that fine could go toward paying rent, or for food. We have to do better.”

This work is part of a growing national movement recognizing the disproportionate toll that fines and fees have on disadvantaged communities already struggling to make ends meet. The City and County were working towards this opportunity prior to the COVID-19 pandemic but it is more important than ever to implement strategies to aid in the financial strength of Sacramento residents, said Assistant City Manager Michael Jasso.

“We look forward to working with Fines and Fees Justice Center and PolicyLink to look at how fines and fees at the local level may be acting as barriers in our quest to help our residents survive and thrive financially,” said Jasso.

The City and County will work over the next 18 months to:

  • Involve and engage with community groups to inform priorities, policy development, advancement and implementation.
  • Conduct a fines and fees assessment to identify fines, fees, tickets and financial penalties that have an adverse impact on low-income people and people of color.
  • Build a reform agenda informed by the fines and fees assessment as well as engagement with community groups.
  • Catalyze reforms across the U.S. by sharing lessons learned and best practices with officials in other jurisdictions.

The fines and fees justice reform program is part of the City’s efforts to promote and ensure inclusive economic and community development. The City also just launched the Sacramento Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) that will offer professional one-on-one financial counseling and coaching as a free public service to local residents.

%d bloggers like this: