Our ABC11 Troubleshooter investigation continues into the obstacles and delays the unemployed in North Carolina are facing when it comes to getting their benefits.
Just last week, we told you about the frustrations some are facing when it comes to the new system ID.me, which is who the NC Division of Employment Security along with several other states partnered with to perform an identity verification process for claimants to help prevent fraud.
Since that story, we have heard from dozens of people going weeks without their unemployment money due to not being able to verify their identity with ID.me.
'I'm homeless right now': Some unemployed North Carolinians blame ID verification system for going weeks without benefits
"I am totally beyond frustrated. It's embarrassing, it's so hurtful for my son. If it was just me, I'd just sleep in my car," said an emotional Cynthia Cole.
She says for seven weeks she's been without benefits trying to work with ID.me and DES to verify her identity and unlock her unemployment account.
Without benefits, her bills are piling up.
"The last thing I need to do is lose my car or lose my house," she said.
Typically claimants should be able to verify their identity through ID.me in a short period of time by uploading the necessary documents to prove their identity.
It's a system the state has in place to cut down on unemployment fraud cases.
For Cole, she says she's uploaded the documents required so many times, and she still can't get her identity verified.
"I mean over and over and over and over again. I've talked, I've had videos with these people. I have tried, I have done everything. I have faxed, taxes, licenses," she said.
However, it's still not working and she turned to Troubleshooter Diane Wilson for help.
Cary resident Mary Torrey faced the same roadblocks with ID.me.
"Every time I would try there would be a wait time of at least five hours or more. All I get is emailed ticket numbers saying your ticket number 3452 and no one actually responds," she said.
Torrey says she can't understand what she's doing wrong.
"When I did the live selfie, they kept denying it, they also denied my documents that I have scanned and used for other programs such as registering for unemployment. This is one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do, and I've applied for colleges, for everything you can apply for," she said.
If claimants can't get their identity verified, they don't get their weekly unemployment benefits until they do.
When it comes to ID.me, Pete Eskew, Senior VP, Public Sector said: "More than 90% of legitimate applicants are able to verify their identity using the automated process with just a computer, phone, and a few pieces of documentation that most people would carry in their wallet in less than 5 minutes."
He added that, for those remaining 10%, they do understand the claimant's frustrations and are adding staff to handle the large numbers of cases they are now getting. ID.me has now partnered with 25 states.
"The influx of fraud and claimants is contributing to longer wait times for legitimate claimants," Eskew said. "We are working diligently to help claimants and are hiring video chat staff, almost 40 to 50 employees a week, so we can support more claimants in the process of receiving their benefits as quickly as possible. Also, we will be opening a Tampa, Florida office in June and will add 500 more support reps throughout the rest of the year."
Another step ID.me is taking is to partner with a company and offer in-person verification.
"So we are also going to offer an in-person proofing capability for some of these men and women who might struggle with technology or just need another layer to find access to much-needed benefits," Eskew said.
If you do need help, ID.me says to reach out to their customer support team here.
Troubleshooter Diane Wilson did give ID.me more than two dozen cases where people claimed to be having trouble verifying their identity and they did look into those cases, resolving many in which claimants could verify their identity and unemployment benefits did start again.
When it comes to Mary Torrey, her identity was verified and she is receiving benefits. As for those still waiting like Cole, ID.me is working with her to get her identity verified as soon as possible.
In some cases, the claimant's identity had already been verified by ID.me and it was now in the hands of NC DES. A representative with DES said: "DES is working closely with ID.me, our identity verification partner, to make the verification process as efficient as possible for claimants. Identity verification is a security measure; however, successful identity verification does not mean a person is automatically eligible to receive unemployment benefits. DES must determine whether a claimant is eligible for benefits under state and federal requirements. Every claim is different, and eligibility must be determined by the specifics of each claim. If there are issues with a claim, it can take longer to determine eligibility and make payments."
Some unemployed North Carolinians continue to go without benefits as they struggle with new identity verification tool ID.me
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