Rep. French Hill Op-Ed in The Saline Courier, Looking to travel? My office can help
Little Rock, AR, June 26, 2021
Little Rock, AR -- Ranking Member on the U.S. House Financial Services Subcommittee on National Security, Monetary Policy, and International Financial Institutions, Rep. French Hill (AR-02) spoke out in the June 26th issue of The Saline Courier on passport renewal and how his office is helping central Arkansans.
I do not want anyone to miss a trip because of an expired passport. Before you pack for the airport, please make sure your passport is not expired and will not be expiring in the next 6 months. However, if you’re in need of expedited processing, the Department of State has an option where you can pay a $60 expedited processing fee to speed up your passport application, which my office can then confirm with the National Passport Information Center.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State needlessly delayed more than 1.6 million passport applications. It was unacceptable that the State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs suspended the processing of all passport applications. Other federal agencies continued to conduct non-COVID-19 related work remotely or with proper social distancing guidelines in the office, and but State could not manage to do the same. This was unacceptable, which is why, in June 2020, I wrote to then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asking why the agency shut down all passport processing when other government agencies continued to work remotely or socially distanced. I awarded the State Department my Golden Fleece award for their inefficiency and waste of taxpayer dollars. Central Arkansans were being left in the dark. Given that applications for new passports and renewals take time, the State Department should have continued processing them during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to these backlogs and the volume of requests the State Department is currently receiving, there has been a delay at passport centers across the country. The renewal process is now taking up to ten weeks for so-called "expedited" service, as opposed to the typical two-to-four-week period. Routine passport services are now taking up to 18 weeks to be processed.
Passport processing should have remained a non-COVID-19 priority for the Bureau of Consular Affairs and the size of this backlog could have been dramatically smaller if processing had not been stopped. I will always fight for Americans to get the service they deserve from the federal government. There is no excuse for failings like the State department's halting passport processing.
I urge everyone to stay up to date on passport services and the Department of State travel advisories. Also check local COVID-19 protocols (masks, testing, quarantine) before you travel and reach out to your primary care physician about getting vaccinated. I have helped hundreds of Arkansans, and I am committed to working to help every family get their passports renewed.