delays leave Carolinians without unemployment money for weeks

Updated: May. 3, 2021 at 6:24 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It’s been almost two months since Debra Voss received any unemployment benefits.

Voss lost her job just before the beginning of the pandemic and successfully applied for unemployment in early March of 2020. But a year later Voss received an email from the North Carolina Division of Employment Security telling her to sign up for, an identity verification site. Once she did, she hit roadblocks within the site and stopped receiving her benefits.

“I’m struggling really bad right now, but I feel really, really bad for people who have children and should be getting this unemployment right now,” Voss said.

Others have reported struggling with the site’s requirement for a video call with an representative. People WBTV spoke with say they had to wait five hours or more before ultimately being unable to get final approval.

Barbara Huffman reported waiting over five hours multiple sessions in a row.

“I have spent the full month of March every day, several days, every week, and it’s the same thing,” Huffman said.

The verification service is designed for users with smart phones so they can access the internet and camera, but Huffman said she has an older flip phone and often accesses the internet at her local library.

Senior Vice President for the Public Sector at Pete Eskew told WBTV the company is aware of the long wait times, but said “about 90% of the population go through in five minutes or less.” Eskew said the company hopes to help by opening in-person identity verification locations nationwide over the summer.

“That’s going to help a layer of comfort, to get their identity verified,” Eskew said. “We’re working closely with the state, both North and South Carolina to make sure that they’re aware that they’re going to come online.”

In a statement to WBTV, a representative for NC DES wrote that the department is working to use another identity verification method with, but that in the meantime “there may be a wait time for the video-chat option” as the site is being used nationwide.

Eskew said could not promise when users can expect the wait times to go down, emphasizing that the majority of users don’t have to wait more than a few minutes to get access to the video call. But he acknowledged those who are waiting need help.

“We recognize that people are in pain,” Eskew said. “You have our commitment that we’re going to continue to try and improve our process and help you out, while at the same time blocking and preventing fraud... this is a joint effort, and we’re going to continue to invest resources to improve our process, and to make sure that people can gain access to these much needed benefits.”

People needing help navigating can go to the NCDES FAQ page.

Copyright 2021 WBTV. All rights reserved.