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USA: Millions of workers receive public assistance

Millions of Americans in full-time jobs continue to depend on federal health care and food assistance programs because of low wages, a bipartisan legislative watchdog reported.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted in a report that approximately 70% of workers who participate in Medicaid, which provides health care to low-income Americans, and in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) are working full time.

Sen. Bernie Sanders requested the report, saying its findings show an urgent need to raise the minimum wage at the federal level.

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

He noted that it is time to increase the minimum wage from $ 7.25 an hour to $ 15.

In the report released Wednesday, GAO analyzed data from 15 state agencies covering 11 entities, with each agency reporting the employers with the most Medicaid and food stamp recipients.

Among the 15 agencies that oversee those two public assistance programs, Walmart was among the top four employers with beneficiaries in each of the 15 programs. McDonald’s was one of 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 in nine of the states reviewed – Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee and Washington – the largest number of SNAP recipients were workers. from Walmart and McDonald’s.

Asked for comment on the GAO report, Anne Hatfield, a Walmart spokeswoman, said: “If it weren’t for the access to jobs that Walmart and other companies provide, a lot more people would depend on government assistance.”

He noted that a small percentage of the chain’s employees receive public assistance when the company hires them. Walmart strives to “remove barriers to employment and create opportunities for individuals that many overlook,” he said.

For its part, McDonald’s USA said in a statement that “the average starting salary at restaurants owned by US companies is more than $ 10 per hour and exceeds the federal minimum wage.”