Benson Adds 350,000 Appointments to Close Backlog | News, Sports, Jobs
LANSING (AP) – Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Tuesday her office was adding 350,000 appointments over nearly four months to address a backlog related to the pandemic as Michigan residents attempt to renew permits for driving, transferring vehicle titles and conducting other business in person.
Branches will be able to serve 25% more customers than expected, she said, citing efficiency gains, namely the reduction of appointment slots from 20 minutes to 10-minute slots. She also relaxed the requirement that all visitors make an appointment in advance, saying those who need a disabled sign can show up without and be served.
Greetings will be posted at the doors of some of the busiest offices in the department. They will tell people if immediate appointments are available or help them plan their return later.
Benson, a Democrat, faces a deadlock caused by the end of a 13-month grace period for driver’s license and identity renewals, which has been exacerbated by branch closures due to exposures to the COVID-19. Republican lawmakers are pressuring her to restore the ability of motorists to enter without an appointment, underlining months of waiting. But she wants to stay the course and notes that more transactions can be done online.
“We are able to do this after discussions with our frontline workers who are concerned about the chatter here in Lansing to revert to a faulty number pickup system,” said Benson. Employees “Suggested that they could work harder and faster to be able to handle more transactions every day efficiently and quickly. … Asking residents to plan their visits in advance is a far superior way of doing business.
Benson’s announcement came just a week after she asked lawmakers for $ 25 million to add 500,000 appointments through September.
“She’s starting to listen to what people need in Michigan, and it’s a start. The fact that she can add 350,000 more appointments, you must be wondering why she has not already done so ”, said Senator Ruth Johnson, a Republican from Holly who served as Secretary of State from 2011 to 2018. She criticized Benson for closing her offices on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings.
Benson noted that the Senate has proposed to cut the department’s budget by nearly $ 10 million, or 4.5%, over the next fiscal year.
Johnson has proposed bills that would extend the expiration date of registrations, licenses and ID cards until September. Late fees would be waived until branches provide at least 25 hours per week of walk-in services.