MVC opening up more appointment times in hopes it will ease congestion flow at locations

New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission locations have had challenges handling the high volume of need since they reopened to the public earlier this summer. Gov. Phil Murphy, at his Monday COVID-19 briefing, addressed the commission’s efforts to alleviate the problem.

“The MVC is completing more transactions month-over-month than they were before the pandemic began,” Murphy explained. “They are reaching out to, and engaging with, more customers through more targeted communications and social media.”

Starting Monday, the MVC has allowed many of its locations to start making an online appointment beforehand for certain transactions. Ten of the locations across the state have already announced that they will be appointment-only for the foreseeable future, while six centers remain open to walk-in customers as well as appointments.

“There is no need to camp out overnight,” Murphy said. “As the MVC begins shifting to an appointment-based system, the fact is, the majority of agencies have customers showing up past 11 a.m. who are still able to have their transactions handled that day.”

Joining the governor at his briefing was the chief administrator of the NJMVC, Sue Fulton, who detailed specifics on what the MVC has been working on to try and alleviate concerns.

“The Motor Vehicle Commission is the largest customer-facing agency in the state government, and the only one that has reopened fully to the public,” Fulton said. “In a massive series of IT projects, even more complex than the massive facilities refit that was require to meet COVID guidelines, we dramatically expanded our online capabilities, adding dozens of new transactions and streamlining others.”

When reopening in July, the MVC has four major priorities: to move transactions online; to clear the driver’s test backlog caused by COVID-19; to make agencies safer, faster, and easier; and to resolve transactions that still require an in-person visit.

Fulton thinks these objectives have been met and the commission is moving in the right direction. She says that, since reopening, the percent of transactions processed has doubled from the levels seen in 2019. Online renewals also have increased from one-third to over two-thirds online.

Another provision from the MVC is the new text alert sign-in service. In the past, customers have had to wait on multiple lines to check in, then get their IDs checked, then for the actual transaction itself. Now, customers can check in with their phone number and they are free to leave and come back once they receive an alert.

No-contact license plate drop boxes now also have been placed at all agencies to limit person-to-person interaction. Murphy has faith in the MVC, saying that he appreciates their efforts and looks forward to more progress in the coming months.

“Nobody is spiking any footballs. We know we have a ways still to go,” Murphy said. “But the progress is significant and I appreciate everybody and the patience we’ve shown. It’s clearly, collectively working.”

Other notes from Monday’s COVID-19 briefing:

Health metrics

With a relatively quiet Halloween weekend now in the rearview, there have been 1,379 new cases reported across the state. This brings the statewide total since March to 240,997.

Three additional deaths have now been confirmed to be from COVID-19 related complications. These deaths occurred on Oct. 12, 24, and 27, respectively. The total death count in New Jersey is now at 14,564, with an additional 1,793 probable deaths. There were 20 deaths in hospitals yesterday, but they have not yet been lab-confirmed, so they are not part of the overall numbers.

Other hospital numbers:

  • In hospital: 1,109 (947 confirmed cases, 162 under investigation);
  • In ICU: 212;
  • On ventilators: 100;
  • Rate of transmission: 28;
  • Positivity rate: 29% (from Oct. 29).

Voting updates

With Election Night 2020 only a day away, Murphy also gave an update on the state’s voting numbers. There have now officially been 3,544,719 ballots received, which is 90% of New Jersey’s total turnout in the 2016 election.

“It is safe to say that this election will be an all-time record turnout,” Murphy said. “More ballots will arrive and will continue to be processed today, so we know this total will go up.”

The deadline to put a mail-in ballot back in the mail has passed but, if residents still have not returned their completed ballot, it is not too late to do so. Ballots can be dropped in secure drop boxes up until 8 p.m. election night. Ballots can also be hand-delivered to a poll worker at the voter’s local polling location. And, finally, all registered voters are welcome to vote in-person on a provisional paper ballot at their regular voting location.

Health care open enrollment

The governor also announced that, as of Sunday, the state has officially opened the open-enrollment period under New Jersey’s state-run health care exchange.

This exchange was created under the Affordable Care Act, and the open-enrollment period will remain open until Jan. 31, 2021. By visiting the state’s website, residents can review different plan options, compare the plans, learn if they qualify for financial assistance and much more.

New Jersey joins the District of Columbia and 14 other states in opening up its own, state-based exchange instead of the federal government’s version. The enrollment period stretches six weeks longer than last year’s window and stretches beyond the federal exchange’s closing date of Dec. 15, 2020.

Despite the extension of the deadline, Murphy sees no reason to delay until then.

“Why wait?” Murphy asked, and then answered. “There’s no reason not to go online today and find an affordable health care plan that works for you and works for your family.”

Final word

Murphy on plans for Election Day 2020:

“I am confident that, as we open up for business tomorrow, we may not be quite at 3.9 million, which was the 2016 total vote count, but we’ve taken a lot of pressure out of the system with this hybrid model that we’ve pursued. So, while we expect, obviously, that there will be many people who vote tomorrow, far more people have already exercised that right. … I believe we’re going to have a safe and successful day, but we take nothing for granted. Any amount of intimidation is categorically, flat out, 100%, black-and-white illegal. And that will be enforced strenuously.”