The Department of Homeland Security is delaying for another year the deadline for Mainers to acquire Real ID-compliant identification. Credit: Gabor Degre

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Mainers will have an additional year to obtain a driver’s license or state identification that complies with federal law because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement Thursday that the new deadline for full enforcement of Real ID is Oct. 1, 2021.

“The federal, state and local response to the spread of the Coronavirus here in the United States necessitates a delay in this deadline. 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,” Wolf said in the statement.

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Wolf said Homeland Security will work with Congress after the outbreak is contained to expedite issuing of Real ID-compliant documents.

A section of the coronavirus relief package passed by the Senate late Wednesday, and expected to go before the House of Representatives for a vote on Friday, would delay Real ID’s implementation to no earlier than Sept. 30, 2021.

Wolf told lawmakers last month that the likelihood that states could be prepared for Real ID by Oct. 1, 2020, was ” probably fairly small,” according to CNN.

That comes as Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap has closed all Bureau of Motor Vehicles offices to halt the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Maine residents are not able to obtain a driver’s license or state ID that complies with Real ID at this time.

Real ID emerged in 2005 among a slew of legislation to address national security concerns after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and it was one of the key recommendations in the 9/11 Commission Report.

The Real ID Act set national standards to improve the security of state-issued identification to prevent undocumented immigrants and terrorists from obtaining U.S. driver’s licenses. Several of the 9/11 hijackers had obtained state-issued driver’s licenses in the months leading up to the attacks.

[What you need to know now that Maine’s driver’s licenses comply with federal law]

But many states balked at what they saw as federal overreach. And the Maine Legislature in 2007 passed a law prohibiting the state from complying with Real ID amid concerns that it would create a de facto “internal passport.” Another 26 states followed suit, passing laws prohibiting compliance with Real ID or resolutions opposing it, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

That prohibition was repealed in April 2017 when lawmakers passed a bill directing Dunlap’s office to finally bring the state into compliance with Real ID no later than July 1, 2019. The measure left in place restrictions on how the state can share biometric data acquired by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Dunlap has pegged the final cost of implementation at $2.5 million. His office began issuing compliant identification last summer.