CAPE CORAL, FLA — Since the pandemic started, our state has processed a record number of unemployment claims.
And in an effort to make sure the right people are getting their hands on that much-needed assistance, a few months ago the state department of economic opportunity began asking folks to verify their identity through a third-party vendor called "ID.me."
In April 2021, a Cape Coral woman came to FOX 4 looking for answers, after her account was locked because she couldn't verify her identity.
We reached out to ID.me and she was eventually able to get verified.
"They have you put in a phone number and send you a code and that's where I kept getting tripped up, it wouldn't recognize my phone number for some reason," she said.
In a cruel twist of fate, a man who we spoke in April 2020, about his unemployment troubles, has contacted FOX 4 again, to tell us that after finally getting a few checks four weeks ago his account was locked.
"I did what I was told to do, and now I’m being penalized and I can’t even get my unemployment. Absolutely ridiculous," said Chris Girard, "Every time I wait online for three to four hours and put in all my ids and things it keeps saying "Unable to verify" and I have to start all over again."
ID.me doesn't have a listed number for you to call for help, you can only submit a written complaint.
Chris Girard says he's done that already and he's also been calling the state DEO.
"I've called over 80 times in the last few weeks to try to get a hold of somebody and every time it says that they're unable to take your call and that they're too busy," he said.
And he's not alone, FOX 4 has been contacted by at least five other people all saying the same thing.
We submitted their names and complaints to both the DEO and ID.me
The DEO promised us a statement but never got back to us.
ID.me on the other hand did. A spokesman says they've already cleared up the issue with one account and promised to "escalate" the others.
We asked, but they did not explain why they were running into these verification problems.
Instead, they told us that 90 percent of their clients don't have issues. They added that they're hiring 40-50 new staff members a week to keep up with demand and are opening a new office to in June to accommodate their growing staff.
They also claim to have blocked more than a billion dollars in fraudulent claims in Florida and 24 other states who currently use their services.
Girard says that's all well and good, but in the end, he just wants his money.
"I just want a Florida unemployment system that works," he said.
FOX 4 has also reached out to Dane Eagle several times this month. He's the former state rep from our area who now runs the DEO, but we have still not heard back.
And FOX 4 isn't just getting answers for folks in our area.
We've also been contacted by folks from across the state.
One woman, named Kim Dailey, says she lives in Miami.
She tells FOX 4 she's been locked out of her unemployment account for six weeks.
She adds that she saw the last story we did on unemployment verification issues and was desperate for answers so she reached out for help because she didn't know where else to turn.
"Four or five thousand dollars they owe to me. Six weeks behind, the bills are piling up, I'm stressed. I had to move back in with family just to stay afloat. But I'm 38-years-old, I shouldn't have to be here, going through what I'm going through. You know what I'm saying? I'm a grown woman," she said.
FOX 4's Rochelle Alleyne has also submitted her name to the DEO and ID.me to get the problem fixed, along with that of another woman who reached out from Orlando.
If you or someone you know is dealing with a similar issue or if you have another story on your mind, you can tell us about it by emailing us at email@example.com.