MVD backlog leads to long wait times, limited appointment availability amid COVID-19
AZTEC — Each day a line begins to form around 6 a.m. outside the Bloomfield Motor Vehicle Division, two hours before the office opens.
The wait can be several hours long as the office is the area's only government-run office open on a walk-in basis. Some people brought umbrellas to shield them from the hot sun. In July, the Bloomfield MVD posted on Facebook asking people not to use the bathroom outside while waiting in line. Now a sign in front of the door directs clients into the police station lobby to use the restroom.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant the Farmington field office and the Aztec location moved to an appointment-only system.
Charlie Moore, a spokesperson for the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department, said in an email that the Motor Vehicles Division, which is under the taxation and revenue department, is looking for potential solutions to the long lines and appointment backlogs.
“The public health emergency has forced us to operate our field offices on an appointment-only basis in order to limit the number of people in the offices at any one time,” Moore said. “Protecting the health of our customers and staff must remain our top priority.”
Some services, like registering a vehicle, can be done at a third-party business that contracts with the state MVD to offer services, but drivers licenses require a visit to a field office like Farmington, Aztec or Bloomfield. These express locations charge additional fees.
The demand is exacerbated because, in addition to limiting the capacity, the MVD field offices were closed for two months during the peak of the pandemic, Moore said.
“As a result, many of our offices are already booked up into October,” he said. “We understand and apologize for the frustration this causes, and we are working to clear the backlog as best we can. But again, our first priority has to be keeping our community safe.”
Moore said the MVD is trying to find ways to alleviate the backlog, such as technology changes.
People who are 75 years old or older can use senior hours at many locations, including Farmington, without requiring an appointment, he said. These hours are 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
In Bloomfield, senior hours are reserved from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday.
Additionally, Moore said the MVD has expanded online services. People who are unable to renew their drivers licenses online, such as people seeking a Real ID compliant license or getting a New Mexico drivers license for the first time, can get a 90-day temporary license online. The state is also allowing some commercial drivers licenses to be renewed online.
The state also allows people to complete vehicle registration renewal, drivers license renewal and updating information like address or insurance online.
A full list of online services can be found at mvdonline.com.
“Finally, it’s worth noting that the governor issued an executive order shortly after our offices closed that allowed us to suspend late fees and penalties on credentials that expire during the closure and directing State Police not to issue citations for credentials that expire during the closures,” Moore said.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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