WFTX — It's no secret that when it comes to unemployment benefits in our state people are struggling to get them.
Over the last year, we've covered the state's struggle to process claims.
And more recently we're learning that people are now being barred from their benefits because they're struggling to verify their identity through a third-party system called ID.Me.
Since our last piece where we asked the governor and the head of the state Department of Economic Opportunity for answers our inboxes have been flooded with messages saying"I'm struggling too."
After several conversations and statements via email, we finally got a chance to ask the company "why this was happening," face-to-face.
Here was one of the first questioned FOX 4's Rochelle Alleyne:
"A lot of people have reached out and said you know I'm either struggling to get verified, which means they're struggling to upload those documents you mentioned or they've done that and for whatever reason, they're not showing as "Verified" in your system. And I don't really know what to tell them is there any ongoing issue that is occurring that you guys are aware of?" she said.
"Not that I'm tracking," said ID.Me's Senior VP of the Public Sector, Pete Eskew.
Right off the bat, Eskew said they're not sure why some people are having issues getting verified, but claimed only 10 percent of their customers nationwide are struggling to navigate their system.
We also asked about him the folks who say they're verified by ID.Me but their benefits through the state DEO are still locked.
The company says they're usually sending over that verification status to the DEO instantly or at least by the end of the day.
"From our end, it's a seamless transition over to Florida and they're able to act as they so choose," said Eskew.
They said it's likely an issue on the DEO's end and claim that sometimes the state double-checks a person's verification status, leading to a longer wait.
"Is that fair to say that you need more staffing at ID.Me?" asked FOX 4's Rochelle Alleyne.
"I don't think it's fair to say and I think it's important to put it into more context," said Eskew.
The company admitted that it is beefing up staffing and even opened up a new center in Tampa to house new employees, but they wouldn't confirm that a need for staffing is why so many of you have complained...
"We're working around the clock to help unlock those applications," said Eskew.
To help speed things up, and to assist those who aren't tech-savvy, the company also confirmed that it will soon be partnering with a local retail chain in Florida where folks can go in person to verify their identities.
Finally, we asked the question that so many of you have asked us: Does our state even need ID.Me?
The company claims so. They claim to have blocked millions of dollars in unemployment fraud. They also claim that a third of the people who use their system nationwide turn out to be potential fraudsters.
But when we asked what the fraud numbers were in the state of Florida, they wouldn't confirm the numbers.
"We'll defer to the state to provide those analytics," said Eskew.
At this point, the only numbers we do have on state unemployment errors come from the U.S. Department of Labor and show that between October 2019 and September 2020, the DEO overpaid people at least $141 million dollars.
A recent audit from the state auditor shows those overpayments are likely connected to a glitch the department has known about since 2015, not fraud.
When it comes to those fraud numbers, FOX 4 reached out to the DEO for a breakdown of Florida's numbers and they told me they couldn't give them to me because they were still "investigating it."
We also followed up with them to ask them what the process was for "unlocking" accounts on their end and paying people.
They told FOX 4 that they didn't understand the question and asked for clarification. We wrote them back and are now waiting for their response.
If you are struggling to get your unemployment payments please feel free to shoot us an email at email@example.com.