LEE COUNTY, FLA — UPDATE 5/6/21:
Following our reporting on the issue this week and after submitting some names to ID.me, we've been told that one local man has finally had his account unlocked.
Chris Girard told FOX 4's Rochelle Alleyne it happened earlier today.
But there are still hundreds more that aren't as lucky.
ID.me tells FOX 4 in a statement that they're working to address those verification issues as soon as possible.
They're also working to hire 500 more employees and opening up a new center, to help keep up with demand.
Our sister station WFTS, is reporting that the new center will be based in Tampa.
ORIGINAL STORY AIRED 5/5/21
We've heard your complaints, about locked unemployment accounts.
"I'm sick of it. I'm sick of the stress, you know I'm 57-years-old with severe COPD and I can't get my unemployment payment it's absolutely insane," said Chris Girard.
And have been flooded with responses from others in Southwest Florida and beyond.
"I've gone through the ID.me system three times now and nothing," said Nikasha Wells of West Palm Beach.
And we're working to investigate why so many of you seem to be having trouble verifying your identity for unemployment, through the state's third-party partner "ID.me."
After exchanging emails with the state Department of Economic Opportunity and ID.me, several times over the last month, FOX 4 took our questions straight to the governor Wednesday.
"I'll have to refer you to Dane Eagle on that," said Governor Ron DeSantis.
Off the bat, the governor tried to reroute us to the leader of the DEO Dane Eagle.
But we let Governor DeSantis know, that we've been trying to reach Eagle over the last month.
"Okay, I'll tell you what, I will call Dane after this and I'll let him know that you asked and I will personally follow-up with you guys," he said.
And it appears the governor made good on his promise.
Shortly after that exchange, FOX 4's Rochelle Alleyne got a call from the DEO, but instead of answering her questions, they opted to speak to her colleague FOX 4 anchor Patrick Nolan, who was asked DeSantis about the issue at Wednesday's press conference.
Dane Eagle spoke directly to Nolan and claimed cross-wires were at the heart of the unanswered calls and emails over the last month.
When it comes to the issues with ID.me, Eagle acknowledged that the wait times were too long and said that he didn't know the company had more than 200 complaints on the Better Business Bureau website.
ID.me said in a statement, "we are aware of the support requests on BBB, and are addressing them promptly."
That said, Eagle is also defending ID.me, saying that they are "trusted partners" and that they are "good at what they do."
It's a sentiment that Nikasha Wells from West Palm isn't buying.
"I think ID.me needs to go away that's first and foremost. The system is broken and they need to acknowledge that," she said.
Shortly after talking to Patrick Nolan, the DEO sent FOX 4's Rochelle Alleyne the following statement:
“ID.me is a trusted partner of the state and federal government to help mitigate the unprecedented spread of Reemployment Assistance fraud across the country,” said Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Dane Eagle. “ID.me’s services have been crucial in protecting the identities of Floridians, and we are excited to learn they will be adding additional staff here in Florida to help combat fraud and protect taxpayer dollars.”
ID.me partners with 24 other states and federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the country has experienced an unprecedented amount of Reemployment Assistance fraud and identity theft. According to ID.me, they have prevented over $1 billion in fraudulent claims. While some claimants may have unique and specific issues verifying their identity through ID.me, 9 out of 10 individuals are able to successfully verify within 5 minutes.
The Department partnered with ID.me, a federally certified and trusted technology partner, in 2020 and has expanded that partnership in February 2021, for new claimants applying for Reemployment Assistance benefits. The Department provides claimants the option to verify their identity through ID.me, if they have a "locked" claim status. If the claimant has a "locked" claim status, the link to verify their identity can be found on their CONNECT homepage. For more information about ID.me, click here [r20.rs6.net]. The Department recently provided an identity theft toolkit which details what Floridians should do if they are a victim of identity theft and steps they should take to mitigate fraudulent activity on their account. To view the identity theft toolkit, click here [r20.rs6.net].
The Department is aware of an issue where some claims are being re-locked in CONNECT after their identity has been verified through ID.me. We are working diligently to resolve the issue and unlock claims that have been re-locked. The Department continuously unlocks claims through an automated process after claimants have been verified with ID.me. For existing claimants who have verified their identity and continue to have their claims re-locked, they should allow at least 24-48 hours for the claim to be unlocked.
The Department remains committed to making sure eligible claimants are paid the benefits they are owed as quickly as possible.
They're answers that may provide relief to those who say the pandemic has already robbed them of so much.
"I was terminated because I am a single mom and I had to make a decision about staying home and becoming a third-grade teacher for my student, my one nine-year-old student," said Wells.
FOX 4 is going to keep digging and following up to make sure these issues are resolved.
If you're having problems you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.