One of the most frustrating challenges for Floridians seeking unemployment benefits has been identity verification. While the state has tried to fix the issue with a new online option, some have said it is still not working.
For months, Florida's online claim users with ID lockouts have only had a jammed phone line to let them back in.
It's what Naresh Maragh of Tampa has been using for weeks without luck. He said he only gets an automated voice telling him phone lines are busy and that no callback option is available.
Time is of the essence for Maragh. Without access to his profile, he can't claim benefits.
"You have to request benefits weekly. I cannot request benefits weekly because I can't get into my account," Maragh said. "I'm wrapping my head around why this is such a hard thing to fix."
Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity created a new online portal about two weeks ago to streamline the process. Through a partnership with the Department of Highway Safety, officials will send a link to users allowing them to verify identities digitally, 24 hours a day.
Since May 25, DEO said it has helped more than 1,000 people with the site.
"This service is another online tool offered to Floridians on behalf of DEO to further streamline the Reemployment Assistance process," said DEO Press Secretary Paige Landrum. "Paying eligible Floridians the benefits they are owed continues to be our No. 1 priority."
Maragh said he's still stuck, however. At last check, he hadn't received a verification link or any indication of when his account would be unlocked.
"I've seen articles of other states, how they've taken care of their issue -- their unemployment issue," Maragh said. "Florida is just way behind the curve. It's super frustrating because we're better than that."
DEO has tried to address this concern online with its FAQ page. It says those with complete applications experiencing these kinds of ID lockouts should wait for state officials to reach out if more info is needed.
We've given DEO Maragh's information at its request. We're still waiting to hear what's holding up his account or why he has yet to receive a link.