Millionaires in MA Are Collecting Unemployment Benefits
Saturday, May 24, 2014
For the most recent year available, 2011, the IRS reports that 189 millionaires had received unemployment benefits, accounting for $2.4 million. 49,302 people who had made $100,000 or more in the same year accounted for $532.6 million in unemployment benefits, accounting for 15-percent of all unemployment cases.
“Unemployment insurance is not an entitlement program so earnings, race, gender, etc. are not factors for eligibility,” said Ann Dufresne, the Communications Director for the Massachusetts Department of Labor and Workforce Development. “Anyone who has lost their job through no fault of their own can apply for unemployment benefits.”
Overall, 325,909 unemployment returns were filed in 2011 totaling almost $3 billion in unemployment benefits.
Millionaires vs. Working Class
Carpentry is one of the many professions that can be affected by unemployment, especially in New England. Seasonal weather trends make the winter months hard for carpenters to find work, leading many to hit the unemployment office.
According to James Turner, a business representative for the Worcester Local #107 branch of the Carpenters Union, around a quarter of carpenters are currently unemployed, which is quite a high number for a singular profession.
While carpenters are certainly not millionaires – Turner says that if a carpenter works 50 weeks out of the year, which is a rarity, they average $70,000 per year – he certainly understands why millionaires who properly pay their taxes would be eligible to claim unemployment benefits.
“I think that if you are employed and if all of your filings are correct, then you should be entitled to unemployment,” said Turner. “I don’t think that someone with $1 million needs unemployment, but I support their right to it.”
Turner thinks that someone who makes $1 million shouldn’t claim unemployment benefits; after all if someone is making that kind of money, they should be able to save some away for tough times like losing a job. And while attention may be called to millionaires claiming unemployment, Turner questions the wage gap between that of a worker and a CEO.
Unemployment Benefits: Colorblind
The Department of Labor and Workforce Development says that people are not turned away from receiving unemployment benefits because the process is colorblind; the state does not judge applicants on any other factor than their current financial needs.
Dufresne says that millionaires who lose their job and are in need of financial assistance can be covered by unemployment in the same ways that the common worker would be. The only difference is that a millionaire may not see that same percentage that another worker may see because there is a cutoff amount.
“Pensions and severance may be looked at in making a determination on whether someone is eligible for unemployment or whether there will be offsets against the total amount of weekly benefits,” said Dufresne. “Keep in mind benefits are capped at $674 a week.”
Those Who Pay Should Reap the Benefits
Surprisingly enough, some advocates who work with the working class are in support of millionaires claiming these benefits.
“I think that anyone who works should be able to collect unemployment benefits,” said Russ Davis, the Executive Director of Massachusetts Jobs with Justice. “We want millionaires paying into unemployment because then everyone can benefit from it.”
Davis says that it is only fair for millionaires to take part in benefits that they pay for. While acknowledging that $1 million is a lot of money and that someone who made that much money in a year shouldn’t need unemployment benefits, even if losing a job for a period of time, but it still doesn’t discredit their ability to claim the benefits.
Ultimately, Davis doesn’t think that millionaires collect such benefits are a problem. Rather than focusing on who is claiming unemployment benefits, Davis would like to see more improvements to the current system to get more money to people who need it.
“I don’t think that millionaires need the benefits, but I don’t see that as the problem,” said Davis. “I think that the problem is that people who need these benefits aren’t receiving enough money. I think that employers need to pay more for the benefits.”
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