Berkeley, Calif. (CBS SACRAMENTO) – American taxpayers spend nearly $7 billion supplementing worker wages at the largest fast food chains, with more than half of fast-food employees’ families relying on public assistance.
A new study from UC Berkeley, and funded by the advocacy group Fast Food Forward, finds that 52 percent of fast-food “front-line” workers are enrolled in one or more public assistance programs – compared to 25 percent of the U.S. workforce as a whole. An average of $3.9 billion is spent on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) each year, with public assistance as a whole adding up to just shy of $7 billion each year.
Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of major public benefit program enrollment comes from working families.
However, the study reports the median wage for these non-managerial fast-food jobs is $8.69 an hour and does not provide for life’s basic necessities. Benefits are also scarce, with an estimated 87 percent of those surveyed not receiving health benefits through their respective employer.
The study analyzed public program utilization by working families, the cost of major public assistance programs such as Medicaid, and expenditures from the fast-food workers’ families between the years of 2007-2011.
“Due to low earnings, fast-food workers’ families also receive an annual average of $1.04 billion in food stamp benefits and $1.91 billion in Earned Income Tax Credit payments,” reports the study.
More than half of those surveyed reported being employed for 40 or more hours each week also enrolled in public assistance programs. The study also found that two-thirds of fast-food workers are adults, and a quarter of them have children.