AUSTIN, Texas — Waiting in line at the driver's license office does not make for a fun day on a normal day, but add a global pandemic to the mix, and trying to get in the doors at all has become a problem.
In mid-March, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) closed driver license offices statewide for a couple of months to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
During that time, nearly 700,000 Texans had their driver's license expire, a department representative told KVUE.
The department started a phased re-opening in May with scheduled appointments only. Since then, the department has seen a high demand for driver license services in areas of the state.
While this issue has inconvenienced many people, it is negatively impacting a vulnerable group of people in the area – children in the foster care system.
"I feel really frustrated by it because there is so much stigma about foster youth and the homeless population, but if you are wanting people to get jobs, vote, get housing, get involved in education, they need their ID to do that," said Caitlin Sweeny, a case manager for children in Texas foster care.
The older children she works with are attempting to get jobs or get their GED, but they cannot do these things because they do not have an ID yet.
With appointments filled for months ahead, Sweeny said she is lucky if she gets an appointment a month out or even three months out.
"We understand the frustrations of customers who are having to wait to secure an appointment, and we appreciate their patience as we work to keep them and our staff members as safe as possible while navigating this unprecedented global pandemic," DPS stated.
There are a few options available for people trying to secure an appointment as soon as possible:
- Consistently visit and refresh the DPS appointment page. If someone cancels their appointment, it will become available again for someone else to grab.
- All driver's license offices have a limited number of same-day appointments available. These appointments fill up quickly and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Once a customer books the appointment, they can leave until their designated appointment time.
- If it is urgent, DL offices are using a standby queue to help offset the gap created when a customer does not come for their appointment or if a customer is taken care of in less time than their full appointment window. A kiosk will allow a limited number of customers to add their name to the standby list to be seen that day. However, there is no guarantee of how long someone may wait.
- Check multiple office locations in the area for an appointment. Less-populated areas may have more available appointments.
At the time of Sweeny's interview with KVUE, she did not know about the standby queue some locations have. She attempted to go to a few locations, and finally, it worked out for her.
"We ended up getting his ID at the northeast [Austin] location. They were so nice and had plenty of appointments," she said.
Another problem DPS is facing is no-shows. From late May to early August, 28% of people canceled or did not show up to their appointments. That equates to nearly 191,000 appointments.
If an individual cannot make their scheduled appointment time, Sweeny asks that they cancel their appointment so someone else who really needs it can pick it up.
"It's not even just my foster youth I'm worried about, but anyone who is in our most vulnerable groups of Austin that are experiencing homelessness," Sweeny said.
Other answers concerning questions viewers asked KVUE about this topic:
- Texas DL and ID holders are eligible to renew their ID, change their address, or get a replacement online by visiting Texas.gov.
- If your ID card expired on or after March 13, 2020, your card is still valid and you are not required to renew it right now. The state granted a waiver for the expiration date on your card that is valid for 60 days after the Department provides further notice that their normal operations have continued.
- New Texas residents are allowed to schedule an appointment to get their Texas license.
- The Gold Star ID deadline of October 2020 was extended until October 2021.
To learn more about the current operations and scheduling, visit the DPS website.
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