COLUMBUS — During a daily briefing on COVID-19, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted provided an update to a March 18 order from Gov. Mike DeWine that closed all but five BMV locations. Husted said Ohio BMV locations will not open until later in May.
Husted said there is no fixed date set yet because the state is expanding the “Get in Line Online” program to all deputy registrar locations that do not already have this service.
"We don’t want large crowds. We don’t want everyone rushing there [BMV]," said Husted.
The system will allow customers to get in line and reserve a spot in the queue without physically waiting in the office. After checking in online, customers have a four-hour window to arrive at the deputy registrar location, check in at a self-service kiosk, and claim their spot in line.
The system is currently active at the following deputy registrar locations:
Since the onset of the pandemic, five BMV locations have remained open because they are essential to issue/renew commercial driver's licenses to keep Ohio's transportation system moving.
Charlie Norman, registrar of the BMV, said the bureau expects to have Get in Line Online installed at all locations across the state by May 12, with a reopening date later this month.
More than 180 deputy registrar agencies, or local license bureaus, have been shut down since March 18, and so have more than 50 driver exam stations.
With a million customers a month in its locations, Norman said there was no way to stay open safely. Some services, such as ordering a temporary tag for a private sale or renewing your vehicle registration, have been moved online, but others, such as renewing a driver's license other than commercial driver's licenses, are not available right now.
Get in Line Online has been in the works for some time and had already been implemented at some locations. It was not intended specifically to deal with COVID-19, Norman said it will be a useful tool when locations open back up.
The online queueing system will help with social distancing, Norman said.
People can "choose an agency they want to visit, they tell us what they’re coming in for, and at that point, they can sort of virtually check in and reserve their spot in line," Norman said.
When someone arrives at the BMV, a check-in lets staff know the person is there and ready to be served. People don't have to wait inside the BMV.
"You can go next door and get a cup of coffee or sit in your car, and you’ll get a text letting you know, 'Hey, it’s your turn to be served, come on in,'" Norman said.
However, if customers do come inside, Norman said there are other measures in place to protect employees and customers, including Plexiglas barriers and personal protective equipment for everyone. There are also chairs and lines spread out to keep people safe, and Norman said the agency is in the process of getting hand sanitizer and other supplies.
"When you think about that million customer a month number, you can sort of imagine the staggering amounts of things like hand sanitizer that we’re going to need," Norman said.
For people whose licenses will expire during the pandemic, there's no need to panic. The governor signed a bill back in March that extends expiration dates for all licenses set to expire during this time of emergency, and Norman said there is also a 90-day grace period on the end of that, or through December 1, whichever comes first.
For anything else, Norman encouraged people to check out bmv.ohio.gov to see if they could take care of what they need online and not have to rush to the BMV once restrictions are lifted.