Today’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to extend the REAL ID full enforcement deadline from Oct. 1, 2021 to May 3, 2023 is welcome news to the nation’s Governors, who have urged this step due to ongoing complications from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Updating state identification systems is an important part of ensuring state and national security measures are technologically sound and serve the needs of our citizens. However, deadlines that did not take into account the real and ongoing hardships COVID-19 has imposed on state and local government agencies, would have created more confusion if the original timeline for adoption had remained in place.
Under the bipartisan leadership of their Governors, states and territories have funded and implemented varying communications campaigns to spread the word about REAL ID to their residents, including outreach, multimedia campaigns, websites and signage. Some have noted use of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, to interact with their constituents and remind them of the 2021 deadline. Additionally, states and territories have continued to lead the way on the public messaging surrounding REAL ID and have developed partnerships with transit hubs, including airports in their states, to bring informational and registration resources around REAL ID directly to travelers.
Governors have invested significant time and resources to raise public awareness, provide services for REAL ID adoption, and have implemented state and territorial best practices to achieve REAL ID benchmarks. However, the prolonged effects on state and local resources and programs, supply chain disruptions, and extended closure of state and local government offices during COVID-19, have made an extension in the deadline advisable if all Americans are to have an opportunity to acquire a REAL ID.
We are hopeful that delaying the deadline for enforcement will afford Congress, the Department of Homeland Security, states and territories the time necessary to adapt to the unforeseen challenges of COVID-19 and prepare for a transition to the new identification requirements.