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Mass. nonprofits face wave of help requests as new driver's license law takes effect

A man walks to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles office in Lawrence, Mass.
Charles Krupa
A man walks to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles office in Lawrence, Mass.

Workers at a Massachusetts nonprofit organization that provides services for immigrant communities say they’ve been slammed since a new law allowing all state residents to get a driver’s license, regardless of their immigration status, took effect earlier this month.

The Framingham-based nonprofit the Brazilian-American Center, or BRACE, has been helping license-seekers navigate the required paperwork and book appointments.

“The telephones ring all the time, people are there all the time,” said BRACE executive director Liliane Costa.

In the first week of the Work and Family Mobility Act rollout, Costa said her organization was contacted by nearly 300 people.

She said the organization expected most people would need help booking appointments on the Registry of Motor Vehicles website. But the process of getting an appointment is a little longer than they anticipated.

The RMV has seen an influx of people seeking services since July 1, when the law look effect. Gov. Maura Healey said 2,800 learner’s permits have been issued this month, double the number issued over the same period last year.

The registry anticipated “for the first six months of the implementation of the law to be the highest demand and busiest,” said RMV Registrar Colleen Ogilvie.

The registry has implemented a reservation system that works as a wait list for people who want to make an appointment. When people sign up, they’re asked to pick three RMV locations they’d be willing to visit.

“As soon as an appointment comes up in one of their three choices, they’ll be sent a communication with a link to make that appointment in 24 hours,” Ogilvie said.

That process has taken a little more time for BRACE workers to navigate with applicants, according to Costa.

“The [RMV] emails are in English, it’s a little difficult for them,” Costa said. Much of the work BRACE has done since the law took effect is translating information applicants receive from the RMV, she said. “It’s a lot of work.”

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