I-Team 8

I-Team 8: State slow to get unemployment claims verified

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Many Hoosiers were forced into unemployment when the coronavirus pandemic gripped the nation and the globe last year. But some Hoosiers are still waiting for their unemployment claims to be verified.

The Department of Workforce Development hired the company ID.me to verify the identity of every person filing for unemployment in Indiana.  

The state says the company has caught hundreds of fraudulent attempts, but the process has also locked out some legitimate claims.  

Lovada Merriweather spends more time on her laptop attempting to navigate the Department of Workforce Development’s identity verification process than she would like. She has sent in all of the required documents, but there was a problem with her birth certificate. That problem had been corrected some time ago.

She has spent hours on the phone and has even gone to her local unemployment office in person four times.  

“When I got this note that says well all your documents are good and they are in, they just need to be verified by the trusted trustee and then he has to approve it, then you have to do a video chat,” said Merriweather. “I just got so bogged down and I guess they have too because they have not called me back.” 

She hasn’t received an unemployment check in months, and has gone as far as to call the Indiana Attorney General and Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office . No one has called her back.

Merriweather worked as a care giver prior to the pandemic. Which is the same occupation as Vicki Crosby who was told by her doctor to stop working when the virus started to spread.  

“When this whole thing started my doctor quarantined me because of my age and I have various medical conditions so she sent a letter to my employer and to unemployment stating I was not to be working,” said Crosby. 

Crosby received unemployment for a couple weeks and then it stopped. She filed an unemployment voucher every week but nothing happened. Eventually her claim was denied, and in September she filed an appeal.    

“And that is where I am, I have had almost no????, I have called every week to find out about the hearing and they keep saying they are way behind and I get no answers,” said Crosby. 

Crosby did receive Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation until June of 2020, but it has been months since she received an unemployment check from the state. She is getting along with food stamps and help from friends, family and church. She is used to making her own way and has become more than frustrated by the system. 

“Oh I call them almost every week and then I call the appeals board I just get the same thing over and over again, ‘well ya know they are really far behind’ and I say ‘how far behind can they be this has been going on since September, first of October since I filed the appeal,’” said Crosby. 

I-Team 8 reached out to the Department of Workforce Development for an explanation. The department denied our repeated request for an on-camera interview.

“We are focused on getting claimants paid timely and combatting fraud,” the department said in a statement to I-Team 8.  

I-Team 8 also asked why the verification process was taking so long.

“As of March 10, 2021, of those that clicked the link to go to ID.me, 25% have been identified as fraudulent, 70% have successfully verified, and 5% are still attempting,” the department said in a statement.  

That 5% is still several thousand people.          

The American Rescue Plan does extend certain unemployment benefits for another 53 weeks, but claimants have to be verified by the Department of Workforce Development to receive those benefits.