Valencia’s driver’s license was suspended for non-payment of fines and fees for a non-driving related offense in Escambia County. Valencia was serving time in prison for the offense when her license was suspended for her inability to pay the associated fines and fees. After her release from prison in 2018, she moved to Tampa in hopes of starting fresh at age 58. However, without a driver’s license she had a difficult time finding stable employment when she arrived. Most jobs either required her to have a driver’s license or they took over two hours to travel to via the lacking public transit system.
Through the help of a caseworker, Valencia eventually became a participant in the Ready4Work program at Abe Brown Ministries and Feeding Tampa Bay’s FRESHForce culinary training program. The FRESHForce program paid a stipend to participants which helped Valencia to save enough money to pay the Escambia County Clerk a down payment of $896 – the amount they required before she could get on a payment plan. She still owes $821 in fines and fees but now has a payment plan with a payment of $50 per month. Once she was on the payment plan, Valencia was able to get her driver’s license back – but not before paying $300 in reinstatement fees to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. She was able to get her license reinstated in October 2019 after it had been suspended for about three years.
In December 2019, Valencia graduated from the FRESHForce culinary program and was immediately offered a full-time job. Having a job has allowed her to move out of transitional housing and into her own apartment. She is excited about her future but is mindful that if she misses one of her monthly $50 payments with the Escambia County Clerk that her driver’s license will be suspended again which will threaten all she has worked so hard to achieve.