In 2017, the state Legislature approved $226 million in extra funding over five years to help the Department of Motor Vehicles deal with the expected crush of residents seeking Real ID cards.

Passed in 2005 by Congress, the Real ID Act set new federal standards for state-issued drivers’ licenses and non-driver ID cards. Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, air travelers will need a driver’s license or some other identification that meets the beefed-up requirements to board a plane in the United States.

Real ID cards have special markings. In addition, applicants must apply in person at a DMV office to receive them. Millions of Californians need the upgrade.

Whatever the DMV has done with the extra money, it hasn’t been sufficient to handle the demand. Hours-long wait times at DMV offices throughout California have prompted public outcry.

Patterson’s Efforts Pay Off

Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) was among the first state lawmakers to demand answers from DMV’s leadership. Now he’s being joined by others.

Jim Patterson

“In addition to customer wait times, DMV employees are reporting working 12 hour days, six days a week with no new employees on staff to help.” — Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) 

You can expect DMV officials to face tough questions today (Aug. 7) in a 4 p.m. hearing before the Legislature’s Joint Budget Subcommittee and 9 a.m. Wednesday before the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.

“While the DMV claims to have hired 500 employees in recent months, customers with and without appointments across the state are reporting two-to-eight-hour wait times with only half of all the windows in field offices open at any one time,” Patterson said in a statement Monday. “In addition to customer wait times, DMV employees are reporting working 12 hour days, six days a week with no new employees on staff to help.”

Here is what DMV had to say on Twitter about four hours before Tuesday’s hearing.

Assemblymen Ting and Chen Have Questions, Too

When Assemblyman Phil Ting visited a San Francisco DMV office in his district last month, he said the line snaking around the block looked more like a queue for rock concert tickets than for people trying to renew their licenses.”I was shocked,” the Democrat said. “What we’ve been hearing are horrific wait times of six or seven hours. That’s unacceptable.”

Portrait of Assemblyman Phil Ting

“What we’ve been hearing are horrific wait times of six or seven hours. That’s unacceptable.” — Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco)

At the Tuesday hearing, Ting says he plans to ask DMV officials whether the money allotted to the system is enough and whether the DMV is making technical improvements to ensure the Real ID transition runs smoothly.

Assemblyman Phillip Chen (R-Diamond Bar) is requesting an audit of the department and how it is handling the Real ID changes. The top complaint he’s heard from his constituents recently is about the long wait times.

“We want to make sure we’re not putting money into a broken system,” Chen said.

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee will weigh Chen’s audit request Wednesday.

To ease the long wait times, the DMV is staffing 60 offices on Saturdays and extending morning hours at 14 offices.

You can learn what you need to obtain a California Real ID at this link.

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