In 2020, as COVID-19 shuttered businesses and forced millions out of work, the federal government flooded states with funds to set up new unemployment programs.

Now, a year after one of those programs expired in Vermont, the state is asking recipients to prove that they qualified.

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Roughly 17,000 Vermonters who enrolled in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program did not submit documents the state now says it needs to verify their work history.

The Vermont Department of Labor has spent more than six months trying to collect the federally mandated paperwork and has only made it through about a third of the backlog. It now expects the effort to spill into next year.

The postmortem is the consequence of Vermont's decision to continue relying on the honor system even after the federal government called for a stronger vetting of claims in an effort to prevent fraud.

Read more in Seven Days.