Tuesday, September 15, 2020 / by Ken Couture
Droves of readers have contacted the Road Warrior in recent months to express frustrations with the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.
The department shut down for three months starting in March, causing a serious backlog of expiring documents from motorists around the state.
Upon reopening on June 15, the DMV went to an appointment-only system to ensure it met COVID-19 regulations that restricted occupancy to 50 percent of capacity. As a result, those who need to carry out an in-person visit are having trouble obtaining an appointment.
“Right now it seems impossible to book an appointment with the local Flamingo DMV office online at dmvnv.com,” said Review-Journal reader Stan Hanel in an email. “I have a car title problem and need to talk with a DMV representative.”
Turns out shutting down was the easy part. Getting things running again after the layoff with new restrictions in place was no simple task and that has led to a flood of appointments, according to DMV Director Julie Butler.
“Opening back up has been the toughest part,” Butler said. “Trying to plan for all the PPE (personal protective equipment) that was going to be needed (for staff), the additional supplies. You couldn’t find PPE, everybody needed it.”
Once open, the limited operations due to the coronavirus constraints allow the DMV’s offices to conduct about 3,450 appointments per day among their offices in the Las Vegas Valley, Reno and Carson City, while there is a backlog of 200,000 expired vehicle registrations and 75,000 driver’s licenses and identification cards needing to be addressed.
Because of that backlog, the DMV issued motorists a pair of extensions for renewing expiring documents. The original one expired Saturday and affects those with expiring registrations; those who need to get their license or ID renewed now have until Nov. 12.
Butler said the majority of the 200,000 expired registrations can be renewed online, at a kiosk or at emissions stations and don’t require the motorist to have an in-person visit.
With the thousands of registrations, driver’s licenses and ID cards and other documents expired across the state, the DMV is not generating the revenue it has in the past.
As it stands, the DMV is $14.1 million short of what it generated off expiring documents (registrations, title fees, inspection fees) and licenses (driver’s licenses, ID cars, driver’s permits) in fiscal year 2019.
“It’s a big (financial) hit for us right now,” Butler said.
The majority of the money generated by the fees goes to the state’s motor vehicle fund, which flows into the highway fund where it is used to pay staff and fund road projects.
If the situation continues, the DMV, the Nevada Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety would need to discuss potential budget cuts.
“We need to meet with NDOT and the Department of Public Safety to firm up our projections,” Butler said. “Less money going into the highway fund means that we may very well have to look at operational and staffing cuts between the DMV, the Department of Public Safety and NDOT and obviously would have to talk with NDOT about potentially fewer road projects.”
Projections for fiscal year 2021 aren’t looking any better as the preliminary outlook is revenue will be “flat,” Butler said.
In late June, the DMV opened offices on Saturdays for walk-in transactions. However, the department decided to nix those last month after residents were camping out overnight and forming long lines without social distancing or wearing face masks.
Last week the DMV announced offices would be open again on Saturdays for limited hours, but with a focus on new residents, creating a special number for them to set up appointments.
“It’s been trial and error,” Butler said. “It’s been a try it out as you go and see what works. Literally some days we’re changing things by the hour.”
Aside from working under such unusual conditions, DMV staffers are also hearing individual stories each day about hardships faced by residents during the pandemic.
“You hear people’s real life stories every day of how they need to get their ID, they need to get their situation with the DMV resolved,” Butler said. “There’s just so much more demand for the services than I have the staff right now and the resources to provide and that’s hard. It’s hard knowing people are really hurting out there and there’s only so much we can do.”
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