Lawmakers introduce bill to end unemployment benefits for millionaires

The Hill

by Vicki Needham

Several lawmakers introduced Tuesday evening a bipartisan measure that would end unemployment payments to millionaires, saving nearly $100 million over five years.

Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) back the measure that would stop the payment of unemployment checks to those who made more than $1 million a year.

"In a federal budget rife with waste, duplication and, sometimes, sheer stupidity, giving unemployment benefits to millionaires may take the cake," Coburn said in a statement. "Ending this practice will save nearly $100 million and correct a gross injustice against the millions of Americans who are out of work.  Congress should pass this bill without delay.  If there was ever a common sense spending cut, this is it."

As many as 2,840 households who have reported an income of $1 million or more on their tax returns were paid a total of $18.6 million in unemployment benefits in 2008, according to Internal Revenue Service figures.

This included more than 800 earning over $2 million and 17 with incomes exceeding $10 million. In all, multimillionaires were paid $5.2 million in jobless benefits, the lawmakers said.

"Unemployment insurance is a critical, temporary, safety net for Americans who need help getting by,” said Udall. "Especially at a time when money is tight and our debt is out of control, we should be looking for smart, strategic ways to save money."

This bill would save more than $20 million every year and more than $100 million over the next five years as well as takes necessary steps to ensure unemployment insurance is used for its intended purpose — to provide a financial safety net for laid-off workers who are seeking re-employment.

"This unemployment safety net should be provided for those most in need, not giving an extra cushion to those who have failed to prepare for the future," Lankford said. 

"Members from both sides of the aisle should be willing and able to support legislation that incentivizes individual responsibility and helps cut wasteful spending."