Washington grapples with license plate shortage brought on by pandemic
Washington is currently experiencing a license plate shortage, brought on slowed production during the pandemic over the last year.
Much of the state’s license plate manufacturing operates out of a single facility at the Monroe Correctional Complex, staffed by four civilians and 30 incarcerated individuals. In a normal year, it can produce over 2 million sets of plates across 47 specialty designs, including those for colleges, military, parks, and special interest groups.
The pandemic greatly slowed that production for passenger vehicles though, with prisons across the state overhauling protocols to ensure proper distancing and sanitization.
Since the start of the pandemic, the Monroe prison housing the license plate manufacturing factory has experienced 555 total COVID-19 cases among inmates and staff, the fifth most out of the 12 correctional facilities the state operates.
The resulting license plate shortage saw Thurston County announce Wednesday that it would be issuing temporary paper permits valid for 60 days for passenger vehicles, noting that trucks, trailers, and motorcycles have not been impacted.
It’s unclear at this point how long this shortage will persist.
“While we haven’t heard for certain when metal plates will be available, we hope our customers are patient while we work through this,” Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall said in a news release.
“The state has instructed us to prioritize car dealership transactions for our small remaining inventory of metal plates,” she added. “We’ll work with customers to get them their metal plates as soon as they are available.”