S. 998 would authorize the Department of Justice (DOJ) to establish a grant program to cover costs incurred by states for reinstating drivers’ licenses that have been suspended for unpaid fees and fines. It also would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report to the Congress on the program’s implementation. In addition, the bill would repeal a provision of law that requires the Federal Highway Administration to withhold a portion of highway grants from states that do not revoke or suspend the licenses of people convicted of drug offenses.
A state could participate in the DOJ grant program if no state or local law allows it to suspend, revoke, or refuse to renew a driver’s license or vehicle registration for a driver who has unpaid civil or criminal fees or fines. Where such laws exist, they would need to have been repealed within three years before the state applied for or received a grant.
S. 998 would authorize the appropriation of $10 million annually over the 2022-2026 period for the program and would cap grants at 5 percent of the amount a state is allocated under DOJ’s Justice Assistance Grant program. (In 2020, a total of $187 million was allocated to states and territories under that program.) CBO estimates that under the bill, DOJ could grant about $10 million annually to states and territories.
Several states recently repealed laws concerning the suspension of driver’s licenses for unpaid fees and fines; those repeals vary in scope. Under the bill’s eligibility requirements, states that enact partial repeals (for example, preventing license suspensions for unpaid traffic fees but not for unpaid criminal fines) would not be eligible for grants. States could take future legislative action to meet the bill’s requirements, however.