People filing for unemployment benefits will no longer need a smartphone to verify their identity, potentially reducing the barriers for some of those waiting to receive critical money.
The state’s labor department announced the change Friday and said people can now use a desktop or laptop computer to verify their identity, as long as it has a web camera. ID.me is a third-party technology service the agency rolled out in April to make it harder for fraudsters to apply for benefits. The software requires people filing for unemployment to take selfies to prove to the state they’re not a fake. In some cases, a video call is required.
But after the rollout, people who didn’t have access to a smartphone or didn’t know how to use the technology were left scrambling to figure it out, with many finding themselves cut off from their benefits. Some people legitimately requesting money were even flagged as fraud and locked out of their accounts.
Colorado’s Labor Department believes it has already paid out at least $22 million in fraudulent unemployment claims and expects that number to grow. Spesshardt added that the agency prevented much more than that — $502 million — from going to fake accounts.
The state Attorney General’s Office is investigating those fraudulent claims but so far has not made public if anybody has been charged with a crime. On Thursday, the US Attorney’s office announced that a man arrested for defrauding pandemic business assistance programs is also accused of collecting more than $40,000 in fraudulent unemployment benefits.
Work-Inducement Program Wrapping Up Soon
Unemployed Coloradans only have until the end of the month to qualify for the state’s Jumpstart Program, which offers state-funded bonuses for finding a job. People must have returned to work between May 16 and June 26 and need to maintain full-time employment for at least eight weeks to be eligible. So far, 11,219 people have opted into the program but the state must still determine if they met the criteria.
The number of employed people in Colorado grew by 7,200 in May. Most of the jobs coming back have been in the leisure and hospitality sector. The total job gains over the past 13 months represent a recovery rate of nearly 71 percent.
“If Colorado were able to maintain the current 2021 average monthly job gains of 16,300 throughout the rest of the year, the state would fully return to a pre-pandemic level of payroll jobs by December,” said Ryan Gedney, senior economist with the labor department.
Despite the positive movement, some areas are still struggling. San Miguel, Pitkin, Pueblo, Gilpin and Summit counties all have the highest unemployment rates in the state.
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