Feds Extend Pennsylvania and New Jersey Real ID Deadlines to Prevent COVID-19 Spread at DMV Offices
Faced with the quick community spread of COVID-19, federal officials have extended state REAL ID compliance deadlines for one year to prevent overcrowding in state motor vehicle offices across the United States who are already struggling to meet the quickly approaching October 1, 2020, deadline.
How Does COVID-19 Affect the REAL ID?
In a statement released yesterday, acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf announced that the current October 1, 2020, deadline would be extended through October 1, 2021, to allow states, like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, to focus resources on the COVID-19 pandemic and to further limit its spread, noting that “[d]ue to circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the national emergency declaration, the Department of Homeland Security, as directed by President Donald J. Trump, is extending the REAL ID enforcement deadline. . .”
Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, Wolf stressed that “[p]rotecting both the health and national security of the American people [is] the top priority for the President of the United States and the Department of Homeland Security.” The joint effort of “federal, state and local response to the spread of the Coronavirus here in the United States necessitates a delay in this deadline, as
[o]ur 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. States across the country are temporarily closing or restricting access to DMVs. This action will preclude millions of people from applying for and receiving their REAL ID.
What Is a REAL ID?
As a result of the terror attacks on the United States in September of 2001, the federal government, in 2005, enacted the REAL ID Act to set national, minimum, uniform standards for the issuance of sources of identification, including state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the Real ID Act “established minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the [REAL ID] Act’s minimum standards.”
Not REAL ID-compliant state-issued identification records were set to be unacceptable for nearly any federal government purpose, including access to federal facilities, entering power plants, and most importantly, the ability to travel domestically. While Pennsylvania and New Jersey have complaint programs in place, hundreds of thousands of residents have yet to appear at their local state DMV office to sit the hours and hours waiting for the issuance of a new identification that is REAL ID-compliant. Many drivers and state identification holders were waiting until the very last minute to secure a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card. Crowds of people were expected to converge on DMV locations across Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the coming months—standing side-by-side—with very little room to allow for any movement, let alone social distancing.