For more than a year now, thousands of Arizonans have complained they can't get the unemployment pay they deserve.
That's how much taxpayer money the State of Arizona paid a company called ID.me.
They've been hired to verify IDs of Arizonans filing for unemployment.
The state hired the company after thousands of fake claims lead potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars to be sent to fraudsters.
Since then, hundreds of people are letting us know they either can't get through the ID.me process and can't get help to do so or they did get through it, but still can't get their money.
It raises a question - was taxpayer money well spent here?
We obtained the contract with the State. It shows ID.me was hired without a bidding process. That process may have allowed the state to look at multiple companies and prices.
Instead, the state asked an already approved contractor hired to maintain software licenses to hire ID.me. They say, "[ID.me had a proven track record..." and that "no formal bidding process is required for purchases issued from an active state contract."
DES authorized the purchase of ID.me’s services utilizing a statewide contract between the State of Arizona and SHI International Corp for Software Value Added Reseller. The Department works collaboratively with our statewide contractor to identify appropriate software solutions based on the different needs of the Department. A purchase authorization was issued and released to SHI International under the Software Value Added Reseller contract. No formal bidding process is required for purchases issued from an active state contract.
DES selected ID.me based on their proven track record working with different state and federal agencies, including Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration, to ensure timely services while maintaining the integrity of public programs funded by taxpayers. ID.me is currently providing identity verification services to 26 states and four federal agencies. Additionally, ID.me was the only vendor with a Trusted Referee service, providing claimants the support needed to appropriately verify their identity if they are unable to complete the verification using the self-service platform online.
Records show DES is paying ID.me for 275,000 successful ID verifications at $3.50 each.
So, ID.me is not getting money for anyone complaining to us that they can't get through the process. That could be the reason why the company reached out to us eager for names, wanting to help.
We've now sent more than 50 names and emails to ID.me - sent to us from people saying they're stuck.
In return ID.me has vetted our list saying some can't be found in the system, their support team is working with others, while a number have finished the process and have been "escalated to the state."
ID.me says "escalated" means they are working with "Arizona to ensure claimants who have verified their identity but have yet to receive their benefits are given heightened awareness."
ID.me RESPONSE TO OUR QUESTIONS:
We continue to get emails each day stating claimants believe ID.me is the reason for delays - do you all have any comment on that?
It’s important to note that 9 out of 10 people are able to verify their identity using the automated process in less than 5 minutes. However, we acknowledge that wait times have been less than ideal for those claimants with unique situations that require video chat verification. Please know these three things:
- The influx of fraud and claimants is contributing to longer wait times for legitimate claimants going through video. 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 new office in June and adding 500 more support reps through the end of 2021.
- We want to continue to emphasize that we are the only company in the country that can remotely verify individuals who don't have a presence in records. Individuals who fall into these categories in states that don't use ID.me have little to no recourse to prove their identity online.
There are multiple emails each day that state they are having trouble contacting ID.me outside of emailing our news station. They have submitted ID.me’s online contact form and, in a few cases, have gone more than two weeks with no response from ID.me. Any comment on that?
We apologize to those people experiencing longer wait times and we understand how critical these benefits are to individuals and families. Our team is working 24/7 to help every legitimate claimant get through while rapidly ramping up our member support team. As we work with the claimants who need additional support, we’ve blocked more than $1 billion in fraudulent claims each week and verified almost 4 millions claims on behalf of our 25 state partners.
Can you elaborate what it means when you escalate a claimant to the state?
We are working with all our state partners including Arizona to ensure claimants who have verified their identity but have yet to receive their benefits are given heightened awareness. State workforce agencies are chronically underfunded and working with 1980s era technology, so we’re helping relieve operational burden by escalating claimants to the state.
But does "heightened awareness" actually mean money for claimants? We're looking into that.
Even after hiring ID.me, it's clear there's a breakdown somewhere.