During the pandemic, ID.me, a company providing digital identity credentials that promised to screen out fraudulent claims but “leave no identity behind,” emerged as a potential savior against rampant unemployment benefit fraud. Since then, ID.me’s influence has increased, as numerous federal departments and scores of states have signed on for its services, including in the new Advance Child Tax Credit program. Unfortunately, thousands upon thousands of identities of low-income people, the elderly, immigrants and other disadvantaged groups (referred to by ID.me as “last frontier individuals”) have in fact been left behind.
This issue brief reviews the barriers created by ID.me for disadvantaged groups within the context of Pennsylvania’s unemployment benefit programs as encountered by legal aid staff representing their clients. These obstacles primarily are either technology barriers or lack of accepted identity documentation. This paper by CLS Litigation Director Sharon Dietrich not only explores the specific problems encountered by ID.me users in UI programs and potential solutions to them, but also a more fundamental understanding: A digital identity credential should not be required to access UI benefits, so long as applicants provide adequate evidence that they are who they say they are.