March 16, 2005 Andrew Rutnik, commissioner of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, said Wednesday that his office is happy to help people who come there for assistance with obtaining or renewing a business license. But whether applicants come to the office or not, the process is being done online.
Rutnik was responding to questions raised by Sen. Usie Richards in a letter dated March 16 and sent to Rutnik and the media.
Richards wrote, "It has been brought to my attention that the opportunity to apply for a business license online has become the official policy, effective December 2004." Richards went on to write that his staff had contacted DLCA and "verified that the Internet is now the one and only avenue available to applicants."
Rutnik said he would be happy to show Richards, or anyone else, how the new system, implemented Jan. 1, works. And he said business people can still come to the office and DLCA personnel will fill in the application for them using the DLCA's Web site.
After months of employee training, Rutnik pulled the plug on the old system two and a half months ago, and now all licenses are handled through an online data base that interfaces with other government agencies and then spits out a license a week or two later.
But the fact that licenses are processed through the Internet does not require that an applicant be Internet savvy, Rutnik said.
"They can still come to our office and one of our people will process the application just like they always have," he said, adding, "You do it, we do it, but either way it's done online."
Rutnik has been working on the Web site since he first took the position as DLCA commissioner six years ago. He said the V.I. is way ahead of Puerto Rico and much of the mainland in being able to complete the process of obtaining a business license online.
And he is proud of that. "I'll give anyone who wants it a demonstration," he said. "We're way ahead on this."
One of the problems, which may have been faced by the folks in Richards' office, is that some DLCA personnel have been turning people away from the office telling them they have to go home and apply online.
Rutnik is adamant that that is not true.
"If somebody said that, they are wrong."
Richards' letter said, "While you may assist by providing online access and professional help to those who may be in need, this may still prove to be an inconvenience and distress to many."
Along with in person, or online, applicants may also mail in their paperwork Rutnik said Wednesday.
The application, he said can be handled, "in person, by mail, or a person can do it online. This is e-government," he said. "It was not invented by us."
The DLCA Web site can be found at www.dlca.gov.vi
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