TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Thousands of Florida unemployment claims are still hung up over identity verification, and it’s unclear how well a new state tool is fixing the problem.
If an employment claim is flagged for fraud, it locks the claimant out. If a claim is locked, it can’t be processed.
Stephanie Bos of Tampa was aware that someone stole her identity and tried to apply for unemployment in 2014. What she wasn’t aware of is that it would come back to haunt her six years later as she was furloughed in March by the pandemic.
“I just thought we notified them, they took care of it, it was done,” Bos said. “And I’ve been locked out ever since.”
Bos tried to contact the Department of Economic Opportunity multiple times and eventually was told to email supporting documents proving who she was. However, Bos claims those emails bounced back.
It’s now been months and while she now has an answer to why she can’t collect unemployment, she doesn’t have a remedy.
“I would think there would be a better way to do it,” Bos said.
Turns out there is, but nobody notified her.
The DEO partnered with the DMV on May 27 to launch an identity verification portal for people locked out of their accounts.
8 On Your Side sent Bos the link but she says when she tried to fill it out, all she got was an error message saying her claim could not be located. Bos called the entire process “extremely frustrating.”
It would appear she’s not alone. The day before that portal launched, DEO’s unemployment dashboard showed 14,611 people in the ID verification queue. Two weeks later, that number stands at 13,770.
While Bos hasn’t been able to collect unemployment, she considers herself fortunate to now be back at work. She knows others locked out of her account may not be so lucky.
“You shouldn’t have to put this much effort into something that seems like it should be simple,” Bos said.
The link to the verification page through the DEO website does include a disclaimer that says it will only work if the state sends you an invitation to fill it out. It’s unclear why that is the case.
If you need to verify your identity to unlock your claim but were not invited by DEO to do so, the disclaimer says to call 1-833-FL-APPLY (1-833-352-7759) for further assistance.
8 On Your Side asked the DEO what else claimants can do to verify their identity and unlock their claims sooner. We are still waiting on a response.
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