Benson applauds bipartisan support for "walk-up" operations, waiving late fees and expiration extensions

JULY 2, 2021Service Driven

"With wide bipartisan support for compromise legislation, state representatives embraced our service-driven, walk-up operations that ensure Michiganders who visit our offices are in and out in an average of just 20 minutes. Residents can schedule their visits or walk up to an office unannounced and be seen immediately if there is an opening, learn when the next opening will be that day if they'd like to wait or come back, or get assistance scheduling a return visit for the next day.

I am glad that House lawmakers also listened to our suggestion and amended the bills to waive late fees and extend expirations on a rolling basis so that they do not all come due on the same day. Previously the Legislature had ignored our requests to issue rolling expirations, and instead made 13 months of extensions all expire on the same date, March 31, 2021, creating the transaction backlog that spiked demand for service in recent months, and frustrated countless residents while offices were forced to operate at limited capacity due to health restrictions and exposures to COVID-19. Following decades of disinvestment and neglect by previous secretaries of state and the state Legislature, the department has also been forced to work with barely half the office staff it once had, while the population of the state has grown 10 percent and the number of vehicles has increased 25 percent.

Residents should know that as pandemic restrictions have been lifted, our office capacity has increased and will continue to grow. This is just the beginning of our post-pandemic operations and we have a strong plan in place to provide an abundance of in-person office availability in coming months to work through the transaction backlog created by the Legislature and to improve upon our model that provides the convenient, efficient and equitable service that Michiganders have sought and deserved for decades.

I am disappointed however that legislative leaders failed to expedite our post-pandemic operations by withholding federal COVID-19 relief funding, just as they have failed to invest in the department for decades. The $5 million proposed in HB 4946 would have provided significant overtime hours to serve more Michiganders sooner, and the $20 million in HB 4947 would have provided additional staff to add capacity at offices and create mobile offices to go to residents where they are, including senior centers and rural areas. But residents should stay tuned, because I will continue to work toward these goals independently and with supportive lawmakers in the weeks and months to come."

In addition to walking-up to an office anytime, residents can also schedule their visits online at Michigan.gov/SOS or by calling 888-SOS-MICH.

Most department services can be accessed without an office visit, as they are conveniently available online, by mail, and at 150 new self-service stations at grocery stores and other locations across the state.

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