Departments of Motor Vehicles across the nation have been forced to close or reduce services in recent weeks as a precaution to stop the spread of the virus.
“We want to remove any impediments to response and recovery efforts,” Wolf said in a statement Thursday.
Delaying the deadline a year will also give the federal government time to implement changes that could speed issuance of Real IDs, Wolf said.
The U.S. Travel Association, which has been advocating for an extension, welcomed the 12-month extension but said that it may not be enough to get most Americans Real ID compliant. The group estimates that more than 67,000 people could be prevented from flying on the first day of implementation and nearly a half-million people the first week, based on the current numbers.
“The already difficult task of bringing the country closer to REAL ID compliance is now clearly impossible due to the coronavirus crisis,” U.S. Travel president and chief executive Roger Dow said in a statement.
Because states are temporarily closing or restricting access to DMVs, people are unable to apply and receive the REAL ID. The federal government requires Real ID applicants to go for an in-person visit.
The Real ID Act was enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It tightened national standards for driver’s licenses and identification cards to try to combat forgery and fraud. The program was the result of recommendations from the 9/11 Commission; 18 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers obtained state IDs, some fraudulently.
Implementation of the law was first to take effect in 2008, but deadlines have been extended to give states more time to comply.
DHS has been phasing in enforcement. Anyone entering nuclear sites, military bases and restricted areas at federal facilities has been required to present a Real ID since 2014.
The last phase, affecting air travel, was expected to go into effect in October. With the extension, beginning Oct. 1, 2021, only driver’s licenses and state IDs that meet Real ID requirements will be accepted for boarding commercial flights. Travelers who don’t have a Real ID will be able to use another acceptable document, such as a U.S. passport or military ID.
About one-third of Americans have a Real ID credential, according to Department of Homeland Security data. The Real ID license is generally identifiable by a star in the upper-right corner.
“Over the next 18 months people will be focused on building their lives back, not going to the DMV,” Dow said. “The economic damage of coronavirus is already massive, and as we move toward a recovery phase it would be awful if the REAL ID deadline hits and creates yet another obstacle to people traveling.”
President Trump had announced earlier this week that he was pushing back the deadline, citing the challenges from the coronavirus pandemic.