Vermonters who got pandemic unemployment benefits must prove they were eligible

Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 5:20 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Some Vermont gig workers who got pandemic unemployment benefits will have to prove to the state that they were eligible.

The federally administrated Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program provided unemployment insurance benefits for thousands of self-employed workers.

Claimants had to self-attest that they lost their jobs.

But across the country, federal officials say the PUA program was ripe for fraud. So, new federal rules aimed at curbing fraudsters require Vermont’s Department of Labor to revisit claimants and determine if they were eligible.

If Vermonters do not respond or they were not eligible, then they may need to repay the benefits they received in 2020.

The state is now trying to get in contact with claimants so they do not have to repay.

“Our job here isn’t to try to go back and make this unnecessary or unburdensome for people, I know that it will be in some sense,” said Cameron Wood of the Vermont Department of Labor.

According to the Labor Department, about 17,000 Vermonters received PUA benefits in 2021.

Of those, 5,000 have not provided documentation to the state.