Secretary of State Benson working with lawmakers to alleviate backlog

LANSING — Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and two Democratic state lawmakers announced legislation that would increase SoS branch offices hours in the short term to deal with a backlog blamed on extensions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Benson and state Reps. Julie Brixie of East Lansing and Stephanie Young of Detroit announced the bills during a virtual press conference on Tuesday.

Benson wants to add half a million appointments at branch offices between now and October,

She said the increase at branch offices  would help to meet  backlog in demand for services after extensions approved by the Legislature, for vehicle registrations and drivers licenses and state ID’s ran out.  In order to do that, SOS needs more people for longer hours.

The house bills, introduced to the Legislature Tuesday and sponsored by Brixie and Young, would provide funding to hire 200 more temporary full-time branch employees and pay for 70,000 overtime hours before the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30.

The bill to hire the extra workers asks for $20 million and the overtime bill $5 million. Benson, Brixie and Young said federal COVID-19 relief aid could cover the costs rather than the money coming from regular revenue sources.

Benson stressed  that going back to the old take-a-number system would not solve the backlog problem and said it would only lead to long wait times in offices, which have been common in recent years.

Some Michigan residents waited as long as 2 hours in an S-O-S office under the old system, she said.