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ID verification kiosks aim to assist Pennsylvanians applying for unemployment benefits

FILE - The Pennsylvania state Capitol in Harrisburg. {Matt Rourke/AP}
Matt Rourke
The Pennsylvania state Capitol in Harrisburg.

State officials say a new initiative will aid Pennsylvanians filing for unemployment compensation.

Identity verification kiosks have been installed at 17 CareerLink offices and 29 UPS locations around the Commonwealth; the state Department of Labor and Industry is aiming to have kiosks at all CareerLink offices by July. None are up and running in Pittsburgh yet, though state officials said they hope to have them available locally by the last week of June.

People applying for unemployment aid online must go through certain digital identity verification measures, including, in most cases, verification through, a private company contracted by the state to verify that unemployment claimants are who they say they are.

State officials contracted with the company in 2020 to stem a wave of pandemic-related unemployment fraud. But advocates complained the process also shut out real people with legitimate claims who struggled with technology, or who did not have access to a computer or tablet with a webcam.

The new kiosks will help people who don’t have internet access or who just need extra assistance navigating technology, state Labor and Industry officials said.

“For those …that aren't able to upload documents and identify themselves through pictures online or through their smartphones, this just gives them another opportunity,” Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Nancy Walker said in an interview with WESA this week. “And for people who show up at a CareerLink to use the kiosks, there are people there, they're trained … they can help them through the process.”

Advocates said the state has made strides in helping out-of-work Pennsylvanians navigate the process, but noted that the quality of in-person assistance would be critical if the effort is to succeed in helping claimants access unemployment.

“What everyone needs more than anything else when they are trying to understand this process is another human,” said Julia Simon-Mishel, supervising attorney of the unemployment compensation unit at Philadelphia Legal Assistance.