Despite now offering $15 minimum wage, Amazon still a top employer of SNAP recipients in many states

A new government watchdog report found that Amazon, Walmart, and McDonald’s were among the top employers of SNAP and Medicaid recipients

A new report from a federal watchdog agency found that Amazon was among the top 25 employers with workers enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) in six out of nine states studied. The company—which reported $5.2 billion in profit in the second quarter of this year—notably raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour in 2018. Yet the wage boost doesn’t appear to have lifted its employees out of poverty: In Indiana, for instance, Amazon lags behind only Walmart and McDonald’s among employers whose workers rely on the safety net for emergency food assistance. 

Back in 2018, The Counter (formerly The New Food Economy) reported that Amazon was among the top 20 employers of SNAP recipients in four out of five states that responded to public records requests. After our story broke, the company raised its minimum wage to $15, a change we expected to push more of its employees out of ineligibility for safety net programs. Yet the findings from the new report indicate the opposite: Despite its commitment to increasing wages, many of Amazon’s employees’ paychecks are still being supplemented by the federal government. 

The Government Accountability Office report, focused on the month of February 2020, was commissioned by Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders. (In 2018, Sanders introduced a bill that would tax employers for their workers’ use of safety net programs like SNAP and Medicaid.) The report found that, contrary to popular belief, more than half of SNAP enrollees worked full-time for 50 or more weeks per year in 2018. All told, 9 million wage-earning adults participated in SNAP that year. It’s a finding that undermines the Trump administration’s emphasis on imposing work requirements to shrink the safety net. In many cases, even when people get jobs—even at $15 per hour—they still don’t earn enough money. 

“U.S. taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize some of the largest and most profitable corporations in America. It is time for the owners of Walmart, McDonald’s and other large corporations to get off of welfare and pay their workers a living 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. That is morally obscene,” Sanders wrote in a press release. “U.S. taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize some of the largest and most profitable corporations in America. It is time for the owners of Walmart, McDonald’s and other large corporations to get off of welfare and pay their workers a living wage.”

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The report also found that no private employer accounted for more than 4 percent of a state’s total SNAP recipients. In most states, restaurants employed the highest share of working SNAP recipients, followed by department stores and grocery stores. 

Amazon employees appear to be heavily reliant on Medicaid, too, despite the company’s claims that it offers generous health insurance and tuition assistance programs. Of six states that provided data to GAO, Amazon ranked among the top 10 employers of Medicaid recipients in five. 

The Counter reached out to Senator Sanders and Amazon for comment and will update this post if we hear back. 

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H. Claire Brown is a senior staff writer for The Counter.