Millions of full-time US workers get government aid

WASHINGTON (AP) — Millions of Americans who are working full-time jobs still rely on federal health care and food assistance programs because of low wages, a bipartisan congressional watchdog said.

A report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that about 70 per cent of adult workers participating in Medicaid, which provides health care to low-income Americans, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programme, also known as food stamps, are working full time.

The report was requested by Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, who said its findings show an urgent need to raise the federal minimum wage.

“At a time when huge corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s are making billions in profits and giving their CEOs tens of millions of dollars a year, they’re relying on corporate welfare from the federal government by paying their workers starvation wages,” Sanders said in a statement. “This is morally obscene.”

He said it was long past time to increase the federal minimum wage from USD7.25 an hour to USD15.

An employee rings up sales at a cash register of a Walmart store in Los Angeles. PHOTO: AFP

In the report issued on Wednesday, the GAO analysed data from 15 state agencies covering 11 states, with each agency reporting the employers in their states with the largest numbers of Medicaid and food-stamp beneficiaries.

Among the 15 agencies overseeing the Medicaid and food-stamp programmes, Walmart was among the top four employers with beneficiaries in each of the 15 programmes. McDonald’s was among the top five employers whose workers received federal benefits from 13 of the 15 state agencies.

Other companies that appeared frequently were Dollar Tree and Dollar General. Sanders said an analysis of the GAO data showed that across nine of the states reviewed — Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee and Washington — the largest number of recipients of foods stamps were employed at Walmart and McDonald’s.

Asked for comment on the GAO report, Anne Hatfield, a Walmart spokesperson, said, “If not for the employment access Walmart and other companies provide, many more people would be dependent on government assistance.”