A new report shows that some 2,400 millionaires received unemployment insurance benefits during the economic downturn, a number that has caught the attention of politicians who funded extensions of benefits for up to 99 weeks as the economy crumbled.
In 2009, 2,362 millionaires received unemployment benefits, down from 2,840 the year prior, according to a study from the Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan arm of U.S. Congress that provides policy and legal analysis. Of the 2,362 more than 1,000 receiving unemployment benefits had a household adjusted gross income of $1.5 million in 2009.
The report titled “Receipt of Unemployment Insurance by Higher-Income Unemployed Workers” found that 0.02 percent of tax filers that received unemployment benefits in 2009 were millionaires. A total of $20.8 million in unemployment benefits went to this group.
“It sounds scandalous when you hear that millionaires are going to collect unemployment insurance,” Bill Frenzel, guest scholar at the Brookings Institute and former Republican member of Congress, told ABC News. “On the other hand, millionaires get unemployed too and have made payments into the unemployment insurance.”
In 2010, 4.6 million people were kept out of poverty due to unemployment benefits, according to the Center on the Budget and Policy Priorities.
Frenzel says if they made a million dollars in income the year prior, “they could probably stand being barred from unemployment this year.”
And, apparently one member of Congress agrees.
“Sending millionaires unemployment checks is a case study in out-of-control spending. Providing welfare to the wealthy undermines the program for those who need it most while burdening future generations with senseless debt,” Republican Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. of Oklahoma said in a statement to ABC News. Based on the report from the Senator’s office, millionaires received $74 million in unemployment insurance from 2005 to 2009.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the average individual collects about $300 per week from unemployment compensation.
Early last year, Sen. Coburn introduced “Ending Unemployment to Jobless Millionaires Act of 2011,” which is currently languishing in the House of Representatives, a bill which sought to halt payment of federal funds for unemployment compensation to individuals whose “resources in the preceding year” was $1 million or more.
But millionaires aren’t the only individuals to benefit from unemployment benefits. A few other high-income brackets receive compensation from the government. More than 8,000 tax filers making $500,000 to $1,000,000 received unemployment benefit income in 2009 and more than 900,000 tax filers that made $100,000 to $500,000 received unemployment benefit income.