CLEVELAND — The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles has backed off the tight deadline contained in its strongly-worded letter that was sent to drivers late last week that warned of possible suspension if drivers remained non-compliant with E-Check requirements.
In a statement sent to News 5, a BMV spokesperson said the agency has extended the E-Check compliance deadline to September 30 after realizing the previous 10-day deadline and July 4 holiday left drivers with too little time to get into compliance.
As News 5 first reported on Tuesday, the letters that Ohio BMV sent to drivers were generated on July 2, but did not get postmarked until July 7 because of the Independence Day holiday. By the time the letters arrived in drivers' mailboxes, many of them had only Saturday and Monday to get an E-Check inspection. According to the letter, drivers had 10 days from the date of the letter (July 2) to surrender their plates or get into E-Check compliance. A failure to do so would have resulted in "an order to confiscate your license plate(s) and registration [being] sent to law enforcement."
The Ohio BMV has walked back those demands and is in the process of notifying drivers that they have until September 30.
"Customers who received the E-Check suspension compliance notice, will receive an extension letter in the mail from Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles extending their E-Check compliance requirement until September 30, 2021," a BMV spokesperson said in a statement. "Given the timing of the mailing so close to Independence Day, we realized that it left too little time for customers to comply with their requirement by the deadline. The right thing to do was to give Ohioans a grace period to come into compliance."
The extension came as welcome news for many drivers that were both concerned and confused by the previous letter.
"I'm glad. It definitely gives at least a grace to period and gives them an opportunity through September 30," said Luis Vizcarrondo, the pastor of Refine Church in Cleveland who also received the suspension notice. "I would say it definitely is great that they admitted to their wrongs and did something about it. Hopefully, eventually, they can approach it policy-wise."
Vizcarrondo said he fielded numerous calls from his parishioners and members of the community about the E-Check suspension notices. The letters from the Ohio BMV came as the state's extension of expired plates, registrations and E-Check certifications, which were the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, ended on July 1. Those extensions appear to have also put the state's schedule for the biennial requirement for E-Check certification completely out of whack. Some drivers that needed to update their registrations in even-numbered years are now having to get their E-Check certifications in an odd-numbered year.
"Somebody called me, saying, 'I got one of these letters. I'm out of state [right now]. What am I going to do? Somebody is going to take my [plates],'" Vizcarrondo said. "I [told them], 'don't worry, calm down. We got a response.' [The BMV] shouldn't have worded that the way that they did."
A steady stream of cars continued to file into the E-Check inspection station on East 55th Street in Cleveland on Thursday afternoon. Among them was Jared Tyus, who came to get an inspection after receiving the letter.
"When I got the letter, I thought, 'what's going on?' It's quite confusing," Tyus said. "It said I needed to have my vehicle checked. I was surprised but here I am."
The E-Check requirement exists only in Northeast Ohio, and drivers in Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage and Summit counties are required to pass inspection.