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COVID-19 Delays REAL ID Act Compliance for Another Year

The full implementation of the REAL ID Act will once again be delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Homeland Security announced the deadline for compliance will be pushed back one year to October 1, 2021.

The REAL ID enforcement deadline will move back once again – this time, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the compliance date would move back one year, to Oct. 1, 2021.

Coronavirus Spread “Necessitates a Delay”

In comments regarding the delay, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf noted the spike in COVID-19 cases across the United States is forcing the delays. Because Americans can’t get access to state motor vehicle offices, the ability to apply for REAL ID-compliant identification cards is at a standstill. Instead of forcing flyers to get a REAL ID-compliant card in the midst of a pandemic, the agency is allowing another one-year allowance.

“The federal, state and local response to the spread of the Coronavirus here in the United States necessitates a delay in this deadline,” Wolf said in a published statement. “Our state and local partners are working tirelessly with the Administration to flatten the curve and, therefore, we want to remove any impediments to response and recovery efforts. This action will preclude millions of people from applying for and receiving their REAL ID. Extending the deadline will also allow the Department to work with Congress to implement needed changes to expedite the issuance of REAL IDs once the current health crisis concludes.”

The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005, with the goal of setting a national standard for “the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” However, implementing the law has been fraught with missed deadlines and pitfalls along the way.

In 2015, DHS announced five states’ identifications were non-compliant with the law, and urged travelers to obtain an acceptable identification, such as a passport book or passport card. In 2016, five additional states faced a compliance extension rejection from DHS: Oklahoma, Kentucky, Maine, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

By 2017, another problem was identified in REAL ID compliance: individuals who do not identify with a binary gender. The TSA was working at the time to provide guidance on how to handle those situations.

By late 2017, before the REAL ID law was supposed to take hold, DHS said 24 states identity cards would not be accepted at TSA checkpoints because they were not compliant. In most of the above situations, an extension of the deadline was granted. In March 2020, ahead of this year’s deadline, Airlines Council International – North America announced flyers were not ready for the REAL ID rule to become the standard.

Homeland Security Says They Are Making Progress

Although the novel Coronavirus outbreak is pushing back the deadline yet again, officials at DHS say they are making real progress to making REAL ID the standard. According to a bulletin published in the Federal Register, 52 of the 56 affected jurisdictions are issuing REAL ID-compliant cards, while spending $263 million in grants to “assist in enhancements to drivers’ license security programs.”

“DHS has increased its level of outreach and engagement to the public and other REAL ID stakeholders, including airlines, airports, and others in the travel industry,” the agency wrote in the Federal Register. “Through these engagements, DHS has received useful feedback regarding the challenges of fully implementing REAL ID ahead of the October 1, 2020, card-based enforcement deadline.”

The agency hopes this is the final extension of the deadline, as the project is now 12 years late.

Dublin_rfk July 11, 2020

A complete whitewash of an excuse. Real Id isn’t here because some governors don’t want to lose their illegal voting base. The virus makes it easier to move forward as many are not working full time or at all.

cscasi July 10, 2020

What drivel! Blame COVID for the government's lack of competence in getting the job done in a timely manner is a lot more accurate. People have known this is coming for years now and if they aren't prepared with the proper drivers licenses or passport, etc., it is ludicrous to blame COVID! It's the issue of people putting things off until the last minute and then when any little thing happens they try to place the blame on someone else. I got mine two years ago!