If you were hoping to get your passport in time to travel abroad this summer, think again.

Even if you prepared for your summer trip by applying for a passport in February or March, the only guarantee you’ll get is the promise of the U.S. State Department that they’ll do the best they can.

When asked about the extended wait times for passports, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “We’re getting 500,000 applications a week for a passport. That’s 30% to 40% above last year, so it’s dramatic,” per CBS News.

What’s the holdup? Who’s to blame? One culprit is COVID-19.

According to The Associated Press, “‘With COVID, the bottom basically dropped out of the system,’ Blinken told a House subcommittee March 23. When demand for travel all but disappeared during the pandemic, he said, the government let contractors go and reassigned staff that had been dedicated to handling passports.”

Frustrating waits

Last March, the State Department increased the wait time for passport processing to 10 to 13 weeks whereas expedited processing was between seven and nine weeks.

Before the pandemic, the wait for routine processing was six to eight weeks and two to three weeks for expedited.

Following the pandemic, the State Department is also struggling to get the overhaul of passports done with limited employees:

“We are focused on hiring, training and retaining staff to address the current surge in demand. We have increased staffing levels and have hundreds of additional staff in the hiring pipeline,” a spokesperson for the department said. “Our staff is working tens of thousands of hours of overtime a month. In fact, from January through June, we authorized 30,000-40,000 overtime hours each month,” per CNN.

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Chad Silver told Bay News 9 that he was forced to reschedule his travel plans after paying for expedited and overnight shipping with nothing to show for it after 13 weeks.

Silver said he called the passport status check number 31 times before he was able to get a representative on the phone: “She told me maybe you’ll get it, maybe you won’t … and I was like, ‘Can I speak to a supervisor?’” Silver recalled.

“The hard part is just not being able to get an answer,” he said. “Just tell me I’m not going to get it.”

Contacting representatives

Senators from across the country are getting an influx of calls from irritated citizens in their states demanding something be done to speed up the process.

Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, along with 12 other senators, wrote a letter to the State Department demanding Biden and Blinken resolve these “unacceptable passport delays.”

A spokesman for Scott told Axios the efforts that the senator’s office can take in helping with the passport backup: “If a constituent has already made a request for a new passport, we are able to provide additional travel information to the agency, which might result in the person receiving the passport prior to the travel date. If the constituent has already requested an appointment, our office can ask for an earlier date which may or may not be granted, depending on the agency’s availability.”

Hope ahead

In an effort to ease the stress of the situation, Blinken announced that the department had tried out a pilot online renewal platform so Americans who already have a passport can renew it online, but that it had to be taken down for critiquing before being set up.

“Once fully launched, we expect 5 million customers to be eligible to use this platform each year to renew their passports. We estimate this would represent two-thirds of all renewals and roughly 25% of all applications received. In time, OPR (online passport renewals) will save Americans time and effort, making it more convenient to renew their passports,” the spokesperson told CNN.

The State Department hopes that by the end of the year, passport processing times will be back to how they were pre-pandemic.