Story at a glance

  • A new study by the Government Accountability Office analyzed employment and census data to find out more about those using Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
  • A number of the recipients of these federal aid programs are employed by Walmart and McDonald's, among other major for-profit corporations.
  • The study was conducted by the federal government at the behest of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who sits on the Senate Committee on Budget and Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Most working Americans who rely on Medicaid and food stamps work for private sector employers, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), with Walmart and McDonald's topping the list in several states. 


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The GAO, which audits the federal government on behalf of the legislative branch, conducted the study using data from the Census Bureau on wage-earning adults between 19 and 64 (excluding those who are disabled and elderly) and surveys across seven states and the District of Columbia. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who serves on the Senate Committee on the Budget, as well as the Committee for Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions — which have jurisdiction over government spending and programs — requested the study.

 

A majority of the recipients were employed by private sector companies, with the highest percent in most states working at restaurants and other food industry employers. Walmart was one of the top two employers of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Medicaid recipients in seven of eight states and the District of Columbia, while McDonald’s was one of the top two in five. Amazon was one of the top 10 employers of federal aid recipients in at least five states, joined by Dollar Tree and Home Depot in several states. 


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“The average starting wage at U.S. corporate-owned restaurants is over $10 per hour and exceeds the federal minimum wage,” a McDonald’s spokesperson said in a statement to The Washington Post. “McDonald’s believes elected leaders have a responsibility to set, debate and change mandated minimum wages and does not lobby against or participate in any activities opposing raising the minimum wage.”

Last year, McDonald's announced that it would no longer lobby for increases in the minimum wage on both federal and state levels. Walmart does support efforts to raise the minimum wage, the company said in a statement to The Washington Post, and emphasized that their starting rate is more than 50 percent higher than the federal minimum wage, which remains at $7.25 per hour. The company also touted more than $5 billion in investments in increased pay, expanded health benefits, and a debt-free college program.

“If not for the employment access Walmart and other companies provide, many more people would be dependent on government assistance,” a spokesperson told the Washington Post. “A small percentage of our workforce comes to us on public assistance, and we remove employment barriers and create opportunities for individuals that too many overlook.”


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Published on Nov 19, 2020