LANSING — Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Democratic lawmakers want $25 million to hire more staff and pay overtime to employees.
The money would go towards expanding appointments and hours at branch offices that are facing large backlogs of transactions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If the spending is approved by the Republican-controlled legislature, it would add 500,000 appointment slots from July through September and the funds would come from federal COVID-19 relief aid.
The backlog was caused by a 13-month grace period for driver’s license and ID renewals during the pandemic, which has caused higher than normal demand for visits to branches.
“This would eliminate the backlog and free up advance and next day appointments for anyone who wants them,” Benson said. “Getting us closer to a point when the supply of in-person transactions our offices provide meets the needs of all of our residents.”
Benson has come under scrutiny for making an appointment-only system to conduct business such as renewing licenses or transferring vehicle titles, permanent.
House Republicans appear unlikely to allocate additional funding unless Benson again allows walk-in visits.
“If the secretary of state truly wants to eliminate the backlog of residents who haven’t been able to access branch offices, she should reopen them fully and with no appointment required,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Thomas Albert said.
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