The state Division of Employment Security plans to require people receiving unemployment benefits to present a photo ID beginning next year.
Dale Folwell, who heads the agency, told legislators Wednesday that the change is needed to combat fraudulent claims by people who steal someone else’s identity.
People will still be able to file for unemployment benefits online or by telephone. But when the new requirement kicks in, they will have to present a photo ID at their local Division of Workforce Solutions office within four weeks of filing for benefits.
The state has targeted Feb. 1 as the starting date for the requirement.
“On behalf of the victims of identity theft, we need to make sure that the people who are getting these benefits are who they say they are,” Folwell said.
A major overhaul of the state’s unemployment system went into effect July 1. The maximum benefits were reduced by roughly one-third, and the maximum weeks of benefits was lowered. The changes also triggered the end of extended federal unemployment benefits for North Carolina’s jobless.
Folwell said in a phone interview that he received an email from a U.S. Department of Labor official saying that the agency has no issues with the state’s plan to require photo IDs. He added that other states also require photo IDs for unemployment benefits, “but I can’t tell you which ones.”
Folwell said that when he started his job at the agency, he had to present a photo ID, so it only makes sense that those who file for unemployment benefits should have to do the same.
The same photo IDs that are accepted as proof of identity when a person starts a new job will be acceptable to the state, he said.
The state has garnished the federal or state tax returns of hundreds of taxpayers who it later discovered were the victims of identity fraud, Folwell said.
The new photo ID requirement piggy-backs on the new unemployment law’s stipulation that people receiving unemployment benefits come into their local Workforce Solutions office within four weeks of filing a claim for a face-to-face meeting about their job search. That new requirement also is scheduled to go into effect Feb. 1.
People receiving unemployment checks are required to seek work.
“We’re going to be a lot more diligent on checking these job searches,” said Employment Security spokesman Larry Parker.
As of mid-November, 72,000 jobless workers in North Carolina were receiving unemployment benefits.
State legislators earlier this year also passed a law that requires voters to present government-issued photo IDs beginning in 2016. Proponents of that law cited voter fraud as a reason it was necessary. Opponents of the law have called it racist, and the Justice Department has filed a lawsuit claiming it violates the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against African-Americans.
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