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Washington license plate shortage leads to temporary plate plan

Department of Corrections inmates manufacture license plates for Washingtonians, but the department has faced worker safety and shortage issues due to COVID-19.

CLARK COUNTY, Wash. — Washington is one of several states nationwide going through a license plate shortage, so now Clark County could begin issuing temporary paper permits instead for passenger vehicles.

The Clark County Auditor’s Office and nine licensing subagents are part of that process.

"The production capacity has been really diminished," Clark County auditor Greg Kimsey said.

The shortage in Washington is due in part to interruptions in production during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Metal license plates are produced by Department of Corrections (DOC) inmates

"It has been having significant challenges the entire pandemic," Kimsey explained. "Safety and shortage of workers, both."

The DOC has worked to increase staffing but also outsourced production to another state beginning July 31.

Washington's temporary paper permits will be good for 60 days when displayed in a car window, the same way temporary plates are displayed when purchasing a car from a dealer. 

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When metal plates become available, Kimsey said customers will be contacted about picking up their plates at the licensing office.

In a news release, the county said the shortage is currently impacting passenger plates. However, the supply of truck, trailer and motorcycle plates could be impacted before the supply chain is fully restored.

Washington's Department of Licensing is working with the county and other issuing subagents on the license plate issue.

“While we haven’t heard for certain when metal plates will be in full supply, we hope our customers are patient while we work through this," Kimsey said. "It's not a perfect solution, just a temporary solution, but at least it's a workaround."

Information about licensing services in Clark County, including a list of subagents, is available online.

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