Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah) says it’s time for Congress to act to make sure enhanced unemployment benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act get to those who need it most, not to millionaires.
“You’ve got to draw the line someplace,” Curtis told The Epoch Times on Aug. 6. “Many of us want to see the funds that are being expended get down the road to those who desperately need it, and there are so many who do.”
The Utah Republican, a former mayor of Provo, Utah, said he thinks “Congress’s intent is really to get this money to those who need it and to find a way to encourage those who don’t need it to stand by and say ‘We can do this without help.’”
To that end, Curtis is introducing in the House of Representatives a companion version of the “Returning Inappropriate Cash Handouts (RICH) Act” sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).
The RICH Act makes it unlawful for individuals with an annual income of more than $1 million to receive the $600 monthly supplementary unemployment benefits funded by the CARES Act.
The $1.8 trillion CARES Act became law in April in the federal government’s emergency response to the pandemic caused by the CCP virus, also known as the novel coronavirus.
The measure included a $600 weekly federal supplement to state unemployment benefits going to millions of Americans who lost their jobs due to the nationwide lockdown that began in March due to the pandemic.
Curtis told The Epoch Times that it’s always difficult for Congress to make certain that such benefits actually end up going to the intended recipients, but that task was made more difficult by the need to act quickly to ameliorate the economic hardships caused by the lockdown.
“This is one way to do that; it’s a small way. It’s very incomplete, meaning I wish we had the ability to be more granular and very, very specific,” he said. “I think that is one of the problems Congress is facing right now, is how do we come out with this broad, sweeping help and have it get to exactly the right people.”
Given that challenge, Curtis said, he thinks his bill “sends a very important message to the American people, that we’re trying to do the right thing, that we’re doing the best that we can.”
Rep. John Joyce (R-Pa.) is co-sponsoring the Curtis proposal, which was filed earlier this week. Curtis told The Epoch Times he expects to circulate a “Dear Colleague” letter to House members seeking additional co-sponsors from among Democrats and Republicans.
Ernst introduced the Senate version of the RICH Act on May 20.
“Every day, essential workers are putting their lives at risk to care for our families and keep our country running amidst COVID-19. Meanwhile, every week, the federal government may be doling out as much as $2 million to millionaires not to work,” she said.
“Out-of-work millionaires are getting these bonus benefits from the pockets of hardworking taxpayers. We need to fix this, we need to do it now, and that’s exactly what my bill does.”
Unemployment benefits going to those who don’t need them isn’t a new problem, according to a statement by Curtis made available to The Epoch Times, to be published Aug. 7.
“The U.S. Department of Labor currently prohibits state unemployment programs from denying unemployment claims to a person who lost a job even if the individual receives income from multiple sources. This led to over 2,500 individuals with incomes of over $1 million receiving unemployment insurance benefits in Tax Year 2017 alone, and at a time when the national unemployment average reached historic lows,” according to the statement.
Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc