Up to 300K Arizonans going through new verification to get unemployment (PUA) benefits

source https://www.abc15.com/news/state/up-to-300k-arizonans-going-through-new-verification-to-get-unemployment-pua-benefits

PHOENIX — Up to 300,000 Arizonans are going through a new verification process in order to receive unemployment benefits by the state, but many complaints are coming in about the process not working.

The Department of Economic Security just implemented a new verification system that they say will help provide PUA benefits to legitimate claimants faster.

“Building off the success of the first phases of implementation of the Department’s partnership with ID.me, today DES expanded the utilization for the ID.me identity verification to the entire PUA population,” a spokesperson wrote by email.

The ID.me verification system includes claimants seeking unemployment to upload their photo ID, social security number, and a selfie photo with an id to authenticate who they are.

ABC15 has been receiving complaints that the system was not working on Sunday as claimants were not able to upload their photo to move through the process.

One viewer tells ABC15 they have been on hold for two and a half hours, “Although everyone I’ve talked to that’s got through hasn’t been helped. I’m on the verge of a breakdown, this is so frustrating. And RIGHT before Christmas, too.”

The viewer went on to say, “Not giving up though, I’ll sit on hold in tears as long as I have to.”

Another email brought up concerns if they’ll get their weekly benefit, “Hopefully we can all get this resolved asap, as I believe I can only file for weekly benefits on Sunday. Which of course adds to the seasonal stress considerably.”

The CEO for ID.me says they had issues Sunday morning that are resolved, “the problem this morning was related to our document verification service, and there was one component related to encryption that was functioning more slowly than it should have been, so the documents were processing but we have a feature that if goes past three minutes it times out the session,” said Blake Hall, CEO and Founder of ID.me.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), the federal program created to provide benefits for workers who are traditionally ineligible, has been especially problematic from the beginning of the pandemic. The program has been rife with fraudulent claims which prompted months-long delays or reversals of payments of thousands of legitimate claims while officials investigated.

ID.me is intended to help find fraud, and Hall said his company has been able to block 21,000 malicious transactions originating from Nigeria that was targeting Arizona on Sunday morning alone.

The new system through a third-party entity appears to be causing more problems for those trying to get their weekly benefit of $117.

“I’ve uploaded several crystal-clear pictures of documents as well as answered a multitude of security questions and I still have yet to be verified,” said one viewer.

DES issued the following statement by email on Sunday:

The ID.me website is not down and the Department confirmed that thousands of Arizonans have been able to verify their identities through ID.me today. The Department is currently working with ID.me to look into specific instances where individuals have had difficulty verifying their documents after uploading them into the system. System adjustments have been made and we encourage claimants that have experienced issues with verifying their identity this morning to try identity verification again.

Building off the success of the first phases of implementation of the Department’s partnership with ID.me, today DES expanded the utilization for the ID.me identity verification to the entire PUA population. This requirement will allow the DES to provide PUA benefits to legitimate claimants faster, to further ferret out fraud among the millions of fraudulent PUA claims we have received, and to prevent additional fraudulent weekly certifications. The Department is monitoring the implementation of this requirement closely and will continue to quickly identify and resolve any barriers to claimants filing their weekly certifications.

ID.me has verified more than 29 million users through partnerships with ten other states and three federal agencies, including Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration, to ensure timely services while maintaining the integrity of public programs funded by taxpayers.

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