Oklahoma Lawmakers Look To Stop "Welfare For The Wealthy"

Wednesday, October 3rd 2012, 4:36 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

A new report says thousands of millionaires have been collecting unemployment benefits. Now two Oklahoma lawmakers are leading the charge in Washington to stop the what they say is "welfare for the wealthy".

Sen. Tom Coburn calls it a case study in out-of-control spending: 2,400 millionaires that received unemployment benefits in 2009.

Terri Knighton recently lost her job as a veterinary tech. She was at the Oklahoma unemployment office Wednesday trying to find a new job.

"Never thought I'd be in this situation, especially having a young child," said Knighton.

Knighton is a single mom who's barely getting by. So news that millionaires are getting the same benefits that she receives doesn't sit well with her.

"I think there's a lot of people out there that need the help and [the rich] don't," Knighton said.

According to a study by the Congressional Research Service, 1,000 of those who received benefits had a household income of over $1.5 million. Eighteen had incomes above $10 million. It all amounts to $20.8 million in benefits going to millionaires.

"If you made a million dollars last year in income and you filed and got $8,000 in unemployment benefits this year, that's a lack of responsibility, that's a lack of planning," said Oklahoma Congressman James Lankford (R).  

Lankford has taken up a measure that Coburn presented in the Senate early last year. "The Ending Unemployment to Jobless Millionaires Act of 2011" would stop unemployment benefits for those who made a million dollars or more the year before.

"The federal safety net is really there for someone who is in an emergency, in dire straits, to try and help them for a short period of time," said Lankford.

The other side, however, women argue those millionaires have made payments into unemployment insurance just like everyone else, so they shouldn't be disqualified for the benefits.

Coburn's bill passed the Senate unanimously but is now stuck in the House of Representatives.