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Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan has unveiled a new program that gives thousands of city residents a chance to have their driver responsibility fees waived months ahead of schedule.

The forgiveness program will allow participants to get a restored driver’s license, removing a major barrier that prevents Detroiters from getting jobs, officials say.

Some 76,000 Detroit residents owe a driver responsibility fee that averages $1,600, according to the city.

Michigan’s fee forgiveness date is Oct. 1, but the city’s program can waive fees as early as this month.

Duggan said those who sign up for the program will be required to complete 10 hours of workforce development training that includes courses on resume building, money management and interviewing skills.

Once a resident finishes the training, the city will forward their information to the state’s Department of Treasury, which will waive their fees, the mayor said. The $125 driver’s license reinstatement fee will also be waived through the end of the year.

“The very people that we need to get to work were legally unable to drive a car,” Duggan said Tuesday. “We have got the hottest job market this summer in the city of Detroit that we have seen in 20 years. And we think there are a lot of people who might want to start driving this summer.”

Duggan said he worked to convince state legislators to approve the early fee elimination. City officials say this program will help employers fill in-demand jobs that require a valid driver’s license faster.

John Perkins, project engineer for a construction company, Barton Malow, said he’s watched new hires go through training and pass tests only to find out they can’t work because they don’t have a valid driver’s license.

Thanks to the city’s program, Perkins said he has six recruits who will now be able to get their driver’s responsibility fees waived and start work at the firm.

“It’s not that they don’t qualify skills-wise,” Perkins said. “It’s because those barriers and obstacles are stopping them from pursuing the career and passion that they once wanted.”

Resident Chiquita Regains, 38, said she wants to move on from her janitorial job but owes $6,000 in driver’s responsibility fees. She said the city’s new program is a “blessing.”

“I was trying to go about getting my license, but the driver’s responsibility fees came up,” Regains said. “It’s been holding me up from getting a better job. This right here is the best thing ever.”

Anyone interested in registering for the Driver Responsibility Fee Forgiveness program should visit detroitatwork.com/drf.

nterry@detroitnews.com

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