Media Release: Data Show Wal-Mart Employees in Maine Rely Heavily on Public Assistance

Date: 28 Jun 2005 | posted in: Press Release, Retail | 4 Facebooktwitterredditmail

PORTLAND, ME [June 28, 2005]—Hundreds of Maine workers employed by Wal-Mart are enrolled in the state’s public assistance programs, including Medicaid, Food Stamps, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, according to data released by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

The figures provide a one-time count of how many employees of each of the state’s top twenty employers applied and qualified for one of the state’s health or welfare programs during the month of May 2005. The count includes only employees, not their children or other dependents who may have also received benefits.

Of the twenty companies, Wal-Mart tops the list both in terms of total number of employees receiving benefits—751—and what percentage of the company’s Maine workforce this represented.

The data suggest that more than ten percent of Wal-Mart employees rely on public assistance to make ends meet?far more than other companies on the list, including other retailers.

“Wal-Mart is imposing a significant hidden cost on Maine taxpayers,” said Stacy Mitchell, a Portland-based senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “As legislature struggles to fill the gaps in the state budget, we can hardly afford handouts to the world’s largest corporation.”

Wal-Mart has 25 outlets in Maine, including its three Sam’s Club stores. The company had global revenue of $285 billion last year.

More than a dozen other states have reported large numbers of big-box employees and their dependents relying on health and welfare programs:

  • In Florida, according to state data obtained by the St. Petersburg Times, 12,300 Wal-Mart employees and their dependents are enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program.
  • Massachusetts spent nearly $3 million last year providing health insurance coverage for Wal-Mart employees and their dependents. Other top users of state welfare programs included employees of Dunkin Donuts, Stop & Shop, CVS, and Home Depot.
  • In Arkansas, Wal-Mart’s home state, 3,971 of its employees rely on some form of public assistance.

“This is the price of Wal-Mart’s rock-bottom wages and meager benefits,” said Mitchell. Most Wal-Mart employees either do not qualify for or cannot afford the high out-of-pocket premium for Wal-Mart’s health coverage.

“In effect, this is a public subsidy for Wal-Mart, which places Maine-owned companies that do pay decent wages and provide health benefits at a competitive disadvantage,” Mitchell said.

Other companies on the list include Hannaford, Maine’s largest employer, which came in second in terms of number of employees receiving benefits, with 527; LL Bean with 170; Maine Medical Center with 126; Shaw’s with 102; Home Depot with 87; and MBNA with 85.

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Stacy Mitchell

Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and directs its Independent Business Initiative, which partners with a wide range of allies to implement policies that counter concentrated power and strengthen local economies.