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Benson announces changes to increase and advance service for all Michiganders
Changes suggested by staff add 350,000 appointments, greeters, priority for disability placards
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson today announced her offices are adding appointments to serve 350,000 more Michiganders, greeters at office doors to assist in scheduling visits, and priority service for residents needing a disability placard.
"We were able to do this after discussions with our frontline workers who, concerned about the chatter here in Lansing to revert back to a broken 'take a number and wait' system, suggested ways they could work harder and faster to be able to handle more transactions efficiently and quickly," said Benson. "It's an extraordinary testament not just to their dedication to the department but their recognition that having residents schedule their visits ahead of time is a vastly superior way of doing business."
The three changes Benson announced were:
- By shaving minutes off transaction times to maximize efficiency, the department is increasing appointments by 25 percent between now and the end of the fiscal year. It released half of the more than 350,000 new appointments Monday, and the remaining half will be split up and released every weekday at 8 a.m. and noon between now and Sept. 30 as next-day appointments. Appointments can be booked online at Michigan.gov/SOS or, for people with internet limitations, by calling 888-SOS-MICH.
- Additionally, residents will be able to book appointments in person thanks to a pilot program that will place greeters at the doors of many of the department's busiest offices this month. When visitors arrive without an appointment, greeters will tell them if any staff are available to serve them, or assist them in scheduling a return visit. The same service will be available at offices without dedicated greeters when counter staff is able to approach the door between appointments.
- Residents needing disability placards can now be served as soon as possible after arrival at any office. While these residents are still encouraged to schedule their visit, appointments are no longer required to receive a disability placard.
Benson noted that the department suffered during decades of disinvestment and neglect by the state Legislature and previous secretaries of state, who cut staff by 40 percent and closed 46 percent of offices while the state population grew 10 percent and the number of vehicles increased 25 percent. The Legislature made matters worse during the pandemic by ignoring the department's request that expiration extensions be granted on a rolling basis and instead extending every license and vehicle plate in the state to expire on March 31, placing 13 months of pent-up demand on the system all at once.
Benson said the Legislature could cut through this transaction backlog quickly by passing bills that would provide $25 million in COVID-19 relief funding for additional department staff and overtime. But she said in the absence of legislative support she would continue making improvements, and to stay tuned for additional announcements.
"I am truly grateful to the hard-working men and women who have given years, if not decades, of their lives to public service here at the Department of State," said Benson. "Whether the legislative leaders are with us or not, the people of this department will not give up on our mission of continuing to find new ways to provide convenient and efficient service to all Michiganders. And neither will I."
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