The Postal Service and the U.S. Labor Department are conducting a pilot program that allows unemployment insurance claimants to confirm their identities at select Post Offices.
The in-person proofing pilot is operating in four states but will soon expand to 19,000 Post Offices across the country that use Retail Systems Software, or RSS.
Additionally, the pilot will begin operating soon in Maui to assist with the Hawaiian island recovery from the recent wildfires.
“Many of our state workforce agencies don’t have a lot of offices distributed across their states. But there are Post Offices in many locations. The Postal Service option allows [claimants] to complete ID proofing required for unemployment insurance in a facility located very close to their homes,” said Lesley Sheffield, an IT program manager for the Labor Department.
Approximately 99 percent of the U.S. population is within 10 miles of a Post Office that uses RSS.
That’s beneficial because the number of state unemployment office locations typically increases when unemployment is high and decreases when unemployment is low, Sheffield said.
“Unemployment is at a historic low, so we can make Post Offices available for claimants to complete their ID proofing. It allows the state to be judicious about their resources and not create equity barriers for claimants,” she said.
In-person proofing also helps reduce the possibility of fraud and identity theft.
“If you want to fake who you are, especially at scale, it is easier to do it online. By offering an in-person option, we give a legitimate claimant a convenient way to prove their identity in a privacy-enhancing way while making it harder for bad actors,” said Ann Marie Tallarino, a USPS digital business solutions specialist.
The Postal Service helped develop the in-person proofing application, which issues a barcode to unemployment insurance claimants whose identities cannot be verified online and directs them to a Post Office.
The claimant’s barcode and other documentation are used by a USPS retail associate to complete the identity verification process, following a process similar to Informed Delivery registration and change-of-address requests.
The results are transmitted to the state unemployment agency, where the benefits claim is finalized. The entire process takes about 90 seconds.
The in-person proofing pilot is similar to the Postal Service’s recently expanded Login.gov pilot program that also gives government agencies a way to securely verify identities when they cannot be validated online.
“The Postal Service is positioned to become a government storefront. That’s part of the Delivering for America plan. We want to be able to offer government services to the public,” Tallarino said.