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Montana extending driver's license deadlines, suspending driving tests over coronavirus

Posted at 5:52 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-17 19:52:26-04

Montana’s Motor Vehicle Division is making several changes to its policies to address coronavirus risk.

Attorney General Tim Fox made the announcement Tuesday.

“Whatever the circumstances, our goals will remain the same: to provide the maximum level of service possible, while doing all we can to minimize the COVID-19 exposure for our employees and the people we serve,” he said.

Fox said he was working with Gov. Steve Bullock’s office to give an extension to Montanans whose driver’s licenses are set to expire in March, April and May. Later on Tuesday afternoon, Bullock confirmed he would approve a 90-day extension.

As of Wednesday, MVD is suspending all non-commercial driving tests for 30 days, to avoid people having to share confined spaces. They will reassess the situation in April and determine whether tests can resume, either on a full or a limited basis.

The agency is also limiting the number of people who can stay in waiting areas at MVD offices. Staff will ask customers to provide their phone numbers so they can call them once it is their turn for service.

Helena’s MVD office is temporarily operating out of the Montana Department of Justice’s Scott Hart Building, at 302 N. Roberts St. The agency had to move after the AAA building, where the office is usually located, closed to the public.

It’s not yet clear what the coronavirus concerns will mean for enforcement of Real ID requirements. As of Oct. 1, the federal government plans to implement the next phase of Real ID enforcement – meaning Montana residents would need a Real ID-compliant Montana driver’s license or state ID card, or another form of federally recognized identification, at TSA checkpoints, military bases and other federal facilities.

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines has been asking that Montana receive another extension to delay the Oct. 1 deadline. On Tuesday, his office announced that he had introduced a bill to push back enforcement for another year in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

“I would anticipate maybe some response from the federal government the longer that this pandemic continues to occur; right now, we have no changes or updates to the enforcement date of Oct. 1 this year, though,” said MVD administrator Sarah Garcia.

Garcia said, for now, MVD is continuing business as usual, and that people can still make appointments. There may even be some more spots available, as she said more than a quarter of people who made driver’s license appointments around the state for Monday didn’t show up.