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Michigan Secretary of State extends license branch hours

July 7, 2021 GMT

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan will extend the hours of operation for drivers’ licenses and vehicle registrations in an effort to shorten lines at branch offices, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Wednesday.

From July 19 through Sept. 30, weekday service will be extended by an hour. On Mondays and Thursdays branch offices will open at 9 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays offices will open at 8 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. Benson said the changes will provide 120,000 additional Michigan residents in-person services.

Benson said the department is hiring about 80 people, but those hires only recover those who left during the pandemic. She has requested additional funding to hire more staff in the past, but the Legislature hasn’t taken action on those requests.

“I can’t emphasize enough that our ability to do this is coming from the folks on the front lines in our branch offices who know this works and see it every day, and want to keep it going and are willing to do what it takes, whatever it takes to keep it going,” she said.

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In April, Benson did away with the ability for residents to walk in to branch offices for services, calling the system “inefficient and ”antiquated.” That system didn’t guarantee that a person who waits would be seen the same day they visited.

Republican lawmakers have been pushing for the return of the walk-in system amid a backlog of people seeking services. The Legislature set the deadlines for extensions on driver’s licenses and license plate renewals during the COVID-19 pandemic to the same day in March instead of rolling deadlines, causing a bottleneck in residents seeking services.

That system has been replaced with online appointments and now a “walk-up” option where a person can go in-person to a branch office and ask if there’s currently an appointment available or when the next available appointment is.

Benson said most residents as of July 1 are now required to renew their state IDs or driver’s licenses every 12 years instead of eight years and can do so online, by mail or at self-service station, as well as in-person.

She said she next wants to work to create mobile offices to ensure residents have access to branch office services, especially if they do not have access to the necessary technology to complete services online. The service would be aimed at large gatherings of residents, including those at senior centers.

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Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.