Mike McClure mailed his license tab renewal form and fee to the Minnesota Department of Vehicle Services (DVS) in mid-May and expected to have new stickers before his current tabs expired May 31.
His check was cashed, but six weeks later, McClure is still waiting for his tabs to arrive.
McClure, 48, of Apple Valley, is far from alone. A DVS spokeswoman said the agency is behind on processing mailed-in tab and license plate renewals for thousands of Minnesotans, and is bringing on extra staff to help catch up on the backlog.
Tab requests by mail have been piling up, and as of Thursday, DVS had 7,700 requests dating to May 11 to process, said spokeswoman Megan Leonard.
Normally the turnaround time is about 14 days, and a vast majority of requests are processed in that time, Leonard said. Since January, DVS has processed about 94,000 mailed-in registrations each month.
"Some customers who mailed in their renewal did not receive their tabs or plates within our standard delivery time," she said.
Leonard said many of the delayed requests required additional processing. That occurs when renewals arrive with payment for the wrong amount, requires an address change or other information is missing.
"During the stay-at-home order, DVS staff was unable to process these particular renewals because staff was telecommuting and did not have access to the mailed-in documents," Leonard said.
With no tabs, drivers like McClure are in a pickle, wondering if they would be ticketed by police for driving with expired tabs. McClure sidestepped the issue, at least temporarily. He was able to get duplicates to put in his rear window from the Apple Valley DVS office that are good for 60 days, until August.
"It is frustrating to me because nobody can tell me when I am going to receive my tabs," he said. "I can totally see me coming up on August 10 when that temporary permit expires still not having received my tabs."
Minnesota law requires new registration stickers to be displayed by the 10th day of the month following the expiration month.
To relieve anxiety, DVS is sending e-mails with a verification letter to Minnesotans who mailed in their registration renewals and reported that they have not received their tabs using the Report Registration Tabs Not Received online form, Leonard said.
"This letter can serve as proof of registration renewal until tabs arrive in the mail," Leonard said.
DVS is also notifying law enforcement that some Minnesotans will not receive their registration stickers before they are required to display the tabs on their license plates, she said.
Motorists were granted an extension to renew expiring driver's licenses when Gov. Tim Walz enacted a peacetime emergency in March. The emergency, in place through July 13, gives drivers whose licenses expired during the emergency until September to renew.
Unlike driver's licenses, tabs were not covered under the emergency since they can be renewed online, by mail or in person at a DVS office. Some offices offer drop-box services for registration renewal and mail customers their tabs, she said.
To catch up, DVS has dedicated 21 employees to handle mailed-in registrations that could not be processed because of COVID-19. That is up from two to three usually assigned to that task, Leonard said.