smartphone selfie authentication (aslysun/Shutterstock.com)

California installs ID.me for unemployment identity verification

The California Employment Development Department (EDD) resumed accepting new applications for unemployment benefits after pausing the system for two weeks to implement a new identification verification tool.

EDD launched a new ID.me identity verification process Oct. 5 that is designed to expedite the process of verifying claimants’ identities, reduce the build-up of claims requiring manual review and crack down on fraud, according to the department’s press office. EDD stopped taking new unemployment claims on Sept. 19 to launch the new process and clear older, more complex cases.

Applicants can use the new ID.me, a federally certified identity verification platform, to more effectively prove they are who they say they are. After setting up a Benefit Programs Online account, the ID.me application will direct users to electronically upload images of official documents such as a driver’s license or passport and a “selfie.” Tools then automatically and instantly check the data against multiple sources, reducing the need for manual review and eliminating delays in benefits payments. In fact, the department said, many applicants could get their payments faster.

“This new enhanced process for verifying a claimant’s identity will help EDD better serve their customers by providing greater convenience in a secure way and avoiding lengthy manual review that can delay benefit payments,” an EDD’s spokesperson wrote in an email to GCN. “The end result of this program enhancement will be faster processing of unemployment claims for customers, preventing the occurrence of fraud in the valuable unemployment program, and reducing workload for staff who can then be more available for claimants in need of assistance.”

According to ID.me, it can process 100% of eligible claims. Anyone who has trouble completing the automated workflow is routed to the company’s virtual in-person proofing process, which involves a video chat with an ID.me agent. ID.me uses machine vision, biometrics, artificial intelligence and integrations with mobile networks to verify the authenticity of mobile devices and government-issued IDs.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed a strike team on July 29 to modernize EDD’s IT and improve customer experience, after the agency was overwhelmed by unemployment claims resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. A Sept. 16 report from the strike team showed the state’s current backlog of undetermined claims growing by at least 10,000 per day with no sign of slowing. What’s more, EDD had been routing 40% of the 60,368 electronic claims it received each day during the week ending Aug. 22 for manual processing.

“If EDD can automate 94% of claims (from a current baseline today of ~60%), it will reduce the number of claims requiring manual attention to 3,622 per day, a number which it has capacity to complete,” the report states. “Moving to an automated identity verification provider would handle an estimated 77.69% of these manual claims, increasing the automation rate to 91%.”

EDD is contacting everyone who needed to file claims in the past two weeks and provided the department with their information.

Since mid-March, 8.13 million Californians have filed for unemployment benefits. For the week ending Sept. 12, California reported the second highest insured unemployment rate in the country at 16.1%, according to the Labor Department.

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.

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