Why are NJ MVC offices closing at the last minute?
After a run of nearly a year, COVID-19 is again affecting the MVC with slowdowns and limits on services at several branch offices.
Nearly daily since Christmas, the MVC has been posting locations closed specifically because of employees testing positive for COVID-19 or staffing shortages.
No walk-in customers were being accepted at any office on Saturday. On Monday, no walk-in service was being offered at Bakers Basin, Camden, Delanco, Edison, Flemington, Randolph, Salem, South Plainfield, Toms River and West Deptford.
Last-minute call outs
MVC spokesman said the agency is facing the same severe staffing shortages that are affecting both government and private businesses. There has also been a high turnover of new hires who have already left.
"While we have hired a significant number of new employees, an even greater number have left the NJMVC. Because of this, and a high number of staff out because of COVID, we must at times move certain agencies to limited operations (no walk-ins, sometimes canceling appointments). We continue to aggressively pursue hiring," Connolly said.
Connolly said that the MVC posts notices about staffing shortages and operational impacts to its website and social media as soon they become known. But sometimes that notice doesn't come until the morning hours before offices are scheduled to open.
"Our staffing situation is very fluid at each of our forty agencies, with each agency being affected differently by early morning callouts and unplanned absences due to COVID," Connolly said.
Earlier canceled appointments and closed offices have created a backlog of customers eligible for walk-in services. The backlog includes customers for the MVC's usual walk-in services, notably probationary licenses for those who pass the road test, plus customers whose appointments were canceled in recent weeks.
"We are working to accommodate as many walk-in customers as possible while serving our usual volume of customers with appointments," Connolly said.
Connolly suggested that if your walk-in transaction can wait a week or two try again later.
Quarantine rules adjusted
The MVC did make a change in its policy on closing offices when an employee tests positive for COVID-19.
“Since we have provided vaccination opportunities to everyone in the agencies, we no longer have to quarantine the entire agency if we have a contact,” MVC Chief Administrator Sue Fulton told New Jersey 101.5 in July. Since then all state employees must provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or test once a week.
Fulton said once there is a confirmed positive COVID case, the agency will need to be cleaned as soon as possible, so that still requires a closure, but most of the time it can quickly reopen for business.
“The difference is closing for cleaning, which we can get in right away, versus closing because we had to quarantine all the employees,” she said.
Previous reporting by David Matthau was used in this report
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ