Chaos and Confusion as California DMV Attempts to Offer Services Online

Employees say, "Nobody in my office has any idea what is going on."

NBC Universal, Inc.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles Wednesday night said it will allow extensions to some expiring driver licenses and allow others to be renewed online, after an NBC4 I-Team report revealed  problems the agency is facing during the coronavirus pandemic.

The DMV is slated to start offering customers some services online starting Thursday morning, but numerous employees told the NBC4 I-Team that might not happen because of internal problems.

"Don't know if we'll start... running into glitches," a DMV employee, who asked not to be named, told the I-Team.

Now, the DMV says it will give 120-day extensions to people over 70 whose licenses will expire by May 1. It will also allow some license renewals to be done online.

The DMV closed its doors to the public indefinitely last Friday, after employees in multiple offices tested positive for the coronavirus. Employees told NBC4 they were terrified they could get infected from co-workers or members of the public coming into their offices to renew driver licenses and vehicle registrations. 

The DMV sent employees home last week in order to disinfect 176 offices, and ordered employees to return today to get training on how to offer services "virtually."

"We've literally been standing around doing absolutely nothing today," said a DMV employee who returned to work Wednesday for the virtual training.


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The NBC4 I-Team emailed the DMV Media Relations Wednesday asking, "What online services specifically DMV will be offering starting tomorrow?"

The DMV responded that it will virtually "process title transfers and complex vehicle registrations" but did not mention renewals of driver licenses. "More services will be offered through the Virtual Field Office in the coming weeks," the DMV added. 

Hours later, the DMV issued another press release, announcing more services will be offered online.

Many Californians continue to show up at DMV offices for appointments they made months ago. Victor Vasconcellas showed up at the Hollywood DMV Wednesday for a long-scheduled driving test for a license, only to find the building closed to customers.

"DMV didn't send me a text or email that this office is closed," Vasconcellas told the I-Team. He's now worried about driving without a valid license. "I worry I could get a ticket, for sure."

The DMV has asked law enforcement agencies to "exercise discretion for 60 days" if they stop anyone who doesn't have a valid license or registration.

As for employee training to offer online services starting Thursday, one DMV worker told NBC4 that training didn't happen Wednesday. "It was just busy work," she said.

"All we know is that we have to show up for work tomorrow," she said, without the knowledge of how to offer a variety of services to the millions of Californians who use DMV offices.

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