WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today sent a letter to the National Governors Association, American Association of Airport Executives, American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, and U.S. Travel Association to inquire about challenges in meeting the new October 1, 2021, REAL ID implementation deadline and the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on implementing the REAL ID Act.
Excerpt from the Chairman’s letter to stakeholders:
The COVID-19 crisis has caused serious economic damage to our nation’s air transportation sector and the entire travel and tourism industry. The current economic slowdown has affected airlines, airports, hotels, restaurants, attractions, rental car companies, and other businesses in the industry. Many of these businesses have shut down entirely as most Americans stay home to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Tourism Economics has estimated that COVID-19 will reduce direct travel spending by over $350 billion this year and impose a nearly trillion-dollar economic impact on the country.
Until Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act last month, both the traveling public and travel and tourism-related businesses faced another massive disruption just a few months down the road with the previously planned implementation of REAL ID requirements on October 1, 2020. Unlike with COVID-19, however, we had 15 years to prepare for this crisis. The implementing statute – the REAL ID Act – was passed in 2005. This legislation implemented the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation to improve the security of common identification cards, such as driver’s licenses, by setting higher federal standards to be followed by the states and territories. The law prohibits federal agencies from accepting non-compliant identification for official purposes, such as flying on commercial aircraft or entering federal buildings. I have repeatedly sounded the alarm about our lack of readiness for REAL ID implementation. In late January 2020, I led a bipartisan, bicameral letter to the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expressing concern over the lack of preparedness.
Eighteen months from now, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or other acceptable form of identification to fly within the United States. Without such identification, passengers will be turned away at airport checkpoints. The U.S. Travel Association has projected that nearly 70,000 Americans will be denied boarding on the first day of implementation followed by nearly half a million Americans in the first week. Such a disruption would create serious security concerns at airports and would have major economic consequences.
To read the full letter, click here.
The Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over the Transportation Security Administration, which enforces the aviation security requirements of the REAL ID Act.