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Money Blog

Oct 3, 2012
02:16 PM

Almost 2,400 Millionaires Cash Unemployment Checks

As the late poet Russell Jones once inquired rhetorically while cashing his welfare check on national television, “Why would you not want some free money?

Jones and his group, the Wu-Tang clan, at that exact moment had the number one album in the country (back when people paid for music), but that didn’t stop him from taking his children to the welfare office and getting what was his.

This thinking appears to also make sense for almost 2,400 people living in households with incomes over $1 million who still collected unemployment benefits in 2009.

That information comes from the Congressional Research Service and it has already prompted congressional action from Oklahoma’s Republican senior senator, Tom Coburn.

The report was released after about 1.1 million people used up all of their jobless benefits during the second quarter of 2012, when more than 4.6 million filed initial unemployment claims.

Not one to let an opportunity to express righteous indignation pass him by, Coburn introduced legislation in February 2011 to keep unemployment benefits away from people who had at least $1 million in assets the year before they filed a claim.

The Senate voted unanimously for his measure, which was called 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 of more than $10 million in 2009 and another 74 households earning between $5 million and $10 million. The average household making $1 million or more received about 37 weeks of unemployment benefits.

There were also an another 954,000 households earning more than $100,000 also reported receiving unemployment benefits.

In defense of the free money millionaires—as I’ve decided to refer to them—the reported benefits may come from spouses or children of the individuals making million-dollar high incomes. They could also be benefits received earlier in the year, before a household member got a high-paying job.

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