This New Study Might Make You Think Twice About Working At Walmart Or McDonald's

McDonald's and Walmart recently topped lists on which no corporation should want to reach number one. Following a study by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), both for-profit corporations topped lists for the number of employees using government assistance for food and medical support. Food assistance is provided through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and is based on income guidelines. The exact requirements will vary state by state, but in general, to be eligible for this program, families must be at or below 130 percent of the poverty level in income (via Food Stamps EBT). For the 2020 fiscal year, that limit starts for a three-person family at $2,311 a month, or about $27,700 a year.

Medical support such as Medicaid is also primarily given to those with low incomes. Again, this varies by state significantly, but most working-age and able-bodied adults will not be eligible for Medicaid unless they make $1,000 or less per month (via Medicaid Planning Assistance).

The recent GAO study shows that many McDonald's and Walmart employees fall into these categories. Out of nine states responding, Walmart topped the list for most employees receiving SNAP, with 14,500 requiring supplemental food benefits (via The Washington Post). McDonald's followed with 8,780 using SNAP. Walmart also topped the list for the six states that provided Medicaid data with 10,350 employees using government-subsidized medical care, while McDonald's had 4,600.

So what does this mean?

Insight into the working poor

The study was commissioned by Senator Bernie Sanders as part of his duties with the Senate committees on Budget and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (via The Hill). The results point to a large population of "working poor," meaning people who've been in the labor force for at least six months yet still fall below different poverty thresholds (via PolicyLink). Low wages are often a contributing factor to this classification. Sanders has long been an advocate for higher wages and increased governmental support for working-class families, and he shared his thoughts on this study via Twitter: "Taxpayers are subsidizing some of the wealthiest families and most profitable corporations in America. That is morally obscene and it's going to change. Workers need to earn a living wage."

Walmart has countered calls for higher wages by noting that they provide many options to help support their employees, including providing jobs in the first place. Spokesman Anne Hatfield shares, "If not for the employment access Walmart and other companies provide, many more people would be dependent on government assistance."

The study reached out to all 50 states and DC but chose to focus on a small group of nine states which was thought to provide the most accurate data, with trends described by analysts covering smaller sections of this data. The states included in the above data are Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington. About 70 percent of recipients were listed as working full-time.