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CBS4 Investigates Unemployment Benefits Going To The Wealthy

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The Colorado Deptartment of Labor & Employment (credit: CBS)

The Colorado Deptartment of Labor & Employment (credit: CBS)

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Investigator Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4) – Among the hundreds of thousands of Coloradans who applied for unemployment last year were a handful of people who made more than $100,000 at the time they were laid off.

When CBS4’s Brian Maass questioned the Department of Labor about the practice, he was told it was not its decision to say if that was right or wrong.

Last year, more than 3,600 people who made between $100,000 to $250,000 applied for unemployment benefits after being laid off. A total of 164 people who made between $250,000 and $400,000 also filed claims as well as two people who made more than $400,000.

“I don’t think it’s for the department to say whether they need it,” said Cher Haavind with department. “The reality is at one point they made $100,000 but when they lost their job, their income went to zero.”

Those high-income earners have the same right to apply for the benefits and Haavind said those benefits are usually not paid by the taxpayer.

“Unemployment is not a welfare program, not a hand out. It is actually what employers by law have to pay for each worker,” she said.

And those weekly payments top out at $513, no matter how much the applicant made before being laid off.

But some senators like Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn want to stop the practice and tried to end unemployment benefits for millionaires, but the bill failed.

Haavind said there’s no point complaining about the unemployment benefits for the super wealthy since they are as entitled as anyone and there’s no downside for taxpayers.

“If the millionaire goes and applies for food stamps, that’s a different scenario,” she said. “this is not a welfare program. It’s a federally legislated program that employers pay into.”

She also pointed out while high earners may apply for benefits, many don’t ever receive them because by the time their severance packages ruin out and they’ve used all vacation time, they’ve found another job.

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