Almost 2,400 people who received unemployment insurance in 2009 lived in households with annual incomes of $1 million or more, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The report was released after about 1.1 million people exhausted their jobless benefits during the second quarter of 2012, when more than 4.6 million filed initial unemployment claims. Eliminating those payments to high earners is one idea being considered as U.S. lawmakers struggle to curb a projected $1.1 trillion deficit for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, with the nationwide jobless rate at 8.1 percent.
“Sending millionaires unemployment checks is a case study in out-of-control spending,” Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said in an email. “Providing welfare to the wealthy undermines the program for those who need it most while burdening future generations with senseless debt.”
The 2,362 people in millionaire homes represent 0.02 percent of the 11.3 million U.S. tax filers who reported unemployment insurance income in 2009, according to the August report.
Another 954,000 households earning more than $100,000 during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression also reported receiving unemployment benefits.
The reported benefits may include those received by spouses or dependents of people who made high incomes, or benefits received earlier in the year before a household member got a high-paying job.
Eliminating the federal share of unemployment benefits for millionaires would save $20 million in the next decade, the congressional researchers said in their report.
Congress has expanded unemployment benefits that had been paid for by states and lasted 26 weeks. The federal money lengthened the maximum period to 99 weeks, though the researchers said that in practice no state currently offers more than 79 weeks.
Coburn introduced legislation in February 2011 to prohibit federally funded unemployment benefits for people who had at least $1 million in assets in the year before they filed a claim. The Senate voted unanimously for his measure, the Ending Unemployment Payments to Jobless Millionaires Act of 2011. It was later added to another bill, which hasn’t passed the Senate.
Coburn found that 18 households reporting an adjusted gross income that exceeded $10 million received an average unemployment benefit of $12,333 in 2009. The average benefit for 74 households earning between $5 million and $10 million was $18,351. The average household making $1 million or more received $11,113, or about 37 weeks of unemployment benefits.
Unemployment benefits, which averaged about $300 per week in 2011, are paid out of accounts funded by payroll taxes and administered by states. Like Social Security and Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly and disabled, unemployment insurance has no income limits.
The Internal Revenue Service reported that 2,840 millionaire households, or 0.03 percent of tax filers, received unemployment benefits in 2008. Another 816,700 beneficiaries earned between $100,000 and $1 million in 2008, the report said.
The House of Representatives last December passed a bill that would have taxed jobless benefits at 100 percent for single filers with an income of $1 million or married filers earning more than $2 million. The provision, part of a jobs bill written by Michigan Representative Dave Camp, a Republican who leads the House Ways and Means Committee, was dropped before the legislation was sent to President Barack Obama for his signature.
Lawmakers voted in February to fund the $30 billion cost of extending unemployment benefits by auctioning public television airwaves and increasing pension contributions by new federal employees. The extension expires at the end of the year.
Not old enough for a driver's license and without a bike of his own, young Ashton Eaton had to find another way to get around when he wanted to visit friends across town. So he ran. “I didn't have to, but I just wanted to get there faster, so I would take shortcuts on the side of Pilot Butte,” Eaton, who spent his teen years…
The 6-year-old boy would take the cleaning ends off the broom and the mop, then place the handles on the floor apart from each other. Then he would jump from one handle to the next, moving them farther and farther apart with each leap to see just how far he could fly. It was an early start in training for the long jump. “That was…
FRESNO, Calif. — Federal law now allows visitors to carry guns in national parks, but you can’t just slip a loaded pistol into your backpack and take a hike. Pay attention, because this is a little complicated. You will need a concealed weapons permit to carry the loaded gun in the backpack. But you don’t need any kind of permit if you just want to…
The holiest plant of the Christmas season may be a raggedy shrub with peeling bark that seems to grow best in a dusty backyard in Tempe, Ariz. This is Boswellia sacra, better known as the frankincense tree. The shrub’s gum resin is one of the three biblical gifts that the wise men bestowed on the infant Jesus. Until recently, Americans who wished to cultivate their…
The 2012 Olympic decathlon — the first for Bend's Ashton Eaton, if all goes according to form and plan — will not begin until August. But Eaton is experiencing the Olympics far from London with help from his coach, Harry Marra. At each meet this season, Marra has taken Eaton on his own to the pole vault pit and set the bar at a challenging…