HB 280: Birth Certificates - Homeless Individuals - Prohibition on Collection of Fee

The Maryland Catholic Conference (“Conference”) represents the public-policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.

HB 280 prohibits the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) from collecting a fee for a certified or abridged copy of a birth certificate issued to a homeless individual, and requires DHMH to accept a signed written statement from a homeless individual as proof of homelessness.

Birth certificates are essential for providing proof of one’s identity in a variety of situations, such as acquiring a social security number and card, establishing one’s age, and verifying familial relationships. Yet, many who are homeless often face challenges with establishing their identities when belongings (including vital documents) get stolen, destroyed, or lost by nature of not having a secure place to store them. Without a birth certificate, homeless individuals are at a significant disadvantage in being able to meet their basic needs and become particularly vulnerable in society. For example, the lack of a birth certificate can limit one’s ability to acquire health insurance when establishing one’s identity during the application process.

This legislation is necessary because homelessness and poverty typically go hand-in-hand. Everyone needs to be able to establish one’s own identity, but the fee required to obtain copies of a birth certificate is a significant barrier to those who are homeless. Establishing one’s identity is an essential step to accessing services that can help end homelessness for many Marylanders. Out of the Church’s care for the vulnerable, we urge you to eliminate the collection of fees for birth certificates for homeless individuals.

The Conference appreciates your consideration and urges your favorable support of HB 280.