GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — More than three years ago, DTE Energy noticed a barrier to employment as it began working with the Parnall Correctional Facility Tree Trimming training program.
The goal was to equip prisoners with a vocation they could use as a pathway for employment after serving their sentence. What the energy company found was that revoked licenses were standing in the way.
“One of the criteria was that the students had a driver’s license and ultimately get a (commercial driver’s license),” DTE Foundation President Lynette Dowler said. “If you don’t have a driver’s license, you can’t get a CDL for three years until you get a driver’s license.”
Dowler says that illuminated something. DTE showed what it had learned to the Michigan Department of State and there was a change in law in October 2021. That change affected 350,000 people in Michigan who had their driver’s license suspended for things like unpaid tickets and court fines or if they failed to appear in court.
Now DTE has partnered with the state and Miller Canfield for the Road to Restoration campaign — offering free, in-person license restoration clinics to get those affected by this change back behind the wheel.
DTE says that around 150,000 of those people don’t have adequate access to get their license back on their own.
“Every one of those residents, they want to get their license and they want it to get to work. They want to be able to take their kids to school. They want to be able to get to the grocery store without taking an Uber,” Dowler said. “I mean, this is like oftentimes a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, these clinics make it an easy one-stop shop. And the professional legal counsel is there to help them based on whatever’s holding you back from getting your license, to help them navigate what they need.”
The state of Michigan contacted everyone impacted by the new laws and most will be able to complete the process on their own through the Secretary of State’s website.
But for those with a more complicated situation, Miller Canfield’s team gathered attorneys from across the state to offer their free services and DTE volunteers have helped facilitate smooth local process toward restoration.
“I believe in making government work for the people, and that is why we’ve worked diligently to ensure not only that these new laws are implemented thoroughly, but that those who are impacted understand the effects on their driving records,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said. “We’re proud to help host clinics like these that allow us to work directly with drivers, so they understand their path to getting back on the road.”