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Nevada DMV catching up on backlog caused by pandemic

Updated March 22, 2021 - 9:02 pm

A year after the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles shut down and then reopened under reduced capacity, officials are finally getting the upper hand on the backlog that was created.

In 2020, the DMV completed 8.3 million transactions, down from 2019’s 9.7 million transactions. That was largely due to the DMV closing from March 17 to June 15, which created the backlog in transactions.

DMV staff has been steadily catching up and cutting into the time it takes to process mailed-in transactions. At the peak of the pandemic, it took 29 days on average to process registrations and 24 days for driver’s licenses and ID cards. Those now take an average of 10 days and 15 days, respectively.

“We think we’ve reached the apex and can turn a corner here,” said Julie Butler, DMV director.

Butler said that should only get quicker, as she hopes to have an influx of employees in place by the end of the month.

“We’re going to be bringing in some temporary staff to our Vegas offices and to our Reno and Carson City offices to help with some of those backlogs and to move people through the lines quicker,” she said.

Near-term improvements

After allowing walk-in appointments on Saturdays only for new Nevada residents, the DMV now is accepting some walk-in appointments during the week.

Still, the DMV suggests sticking to the appointment system.

“You make an appointment to get your hair done, you make an appointment to go to the doctor, you make an appointment for all kinds of things,” Butler said. “We want you to make an appointment for the DMV.”

Kevin Malone, DMV spokesman, added, “Customers with appointments have priority.”

Customers can still walk in on Saturdays if they cannot do their transaction online or at a kiosk, and the DMV has bulked up its Saturday staffing to meet the demand.

Lines can stretch out of DMV office parking lots at some locations on Saturdays, as seen in videos posted to social media.

One video that surfaced two weeks ago showed the line at the Henderson office stretching around the building, out of the parking lot and down Stephanie Street. Butler said it wasn’t as bad as it looked.

“What you didn’t hear is that (video) was taken well before we opened and my staff worked through that line and got everybody a ticket to either be seen that day or to come back another day by 8:30 that morning,” she said. “We were able to service everybody in that line and we still had space left over to serve customers for the rest of the day.”

DMV officials ask that residents not arrive earlier than 7 a.m. for Saturdays’ 8 a.m. opening. There is no need to camp out overnight, Malone added.

Rural offices

Some Las Vegas-area residents have opted to try their luck at an office in a neighboring town such as Pahrump or Mesquite.

“The rural offices have limited staff. They are able to serve the local customers but do not have the capacity to handle additional customers from Las Vegas,” Malone said.

To keep area residents from trying the rural route, the DMV added 108 new appointments per day at the Decatur office and 185 at the Sahara office. Another 200 new appointments per day are being added at the Flamingo office starting Monday.

“The best advice is to check for appointments early in the day,” Malone said.

The DMV also is looking to make it possible to carry out nearly every transaction online.

The DMV sent a proposal to the Legislature to make almost all of its transactions available online. If approved, the transformation would occur in phases over about four years.

“If COVID has shown us nothing else,” Butler said, “it’s that we need to make our services available online, 24/7, at our customers’ convenience.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter. Send questions and comments to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com.

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