DHS unveils Real ID grants

The Homeland Security Department released grant guidelines this week to assist states in applying for $35 million to begin implementing Real ID requirements for handling personal information associated with driver's licenses.

"These funds will advance the ability of states to verify the legitimacy of documents that applicants present and to confirm that the applicants are who they say they are," said Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Under the Real ID Act of 2005, states must meet new rules for collecting, verifying, storing and publishing personal information related to driver's licenses, and they must share the personal information of license holders with other states. The law has been controversial due to its estimated $14 billion implementation cost and possible risks of privacy loss and identity theft. DHS has not yet published the final regulations for states to follow.

The bulk of the Real ID Demonstration Grant funding, $31 million, is designated for projects that assist states in checking other states' motor vehicle records to ensure that drivers do not hold multiple licenses and for verification against federal records like immigration status, DHS said.

"This grant will help standardize methods by which states may seamlessly verify an applicant's information with another state and deploy data and document verification capabilities that can be used by all states, while protecting personal identification information," DHS said.

DHS will make another $4 million available through the Real ID Vital Events Verification State Project Grant program to help states establish systems to verify birth certificates. The goal is to allow officials in one state to electronically verify birth certificates presented from other states.

The verification grant program will build on a 2006 pilot project in Kentucky to test software to improve verification capabilities. Grants will be made available to states to demonstrate the same or similar software, DHS said.

States that wish to apply for the Real ID grants should explain how their project can be used by other states, DHS said.

For additional support for Real ID, state governments are allowed to use 20 percent of their State Homeland Security Grant allotments for Real ID-related projects.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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