Studies Link Fast-food Wages To Public Assistance

‘It’s not your fault’: Some furloughed by shutdown turn to charities for food

Rich Pedroncelli/AP/File Enlarge NEW ORLEANS Wal-MartStores Inc and Xerox Corp blamed each other on Monday afterLouisianafood stamp recipients stripped bare the shelves of someWalmartstores when a computer glitch left their debit cards with no limits. The Christian Science Monitor Weekly Digital Edition Managers ofWalmartstores in the small,north Louisianatowns ofSpringhilland Mansfield alerted police on Saturday night that throngs of shoppers had flooded into the stores and were buying groceries using electronic benefit cards that contained no credit limits. EBT cards are debit-type cards issued under the state’s food stamp program and coded to show the amount of money available for individuals to spend. Food stamps are a federal government subsidy program for low-income people that is administered by the states. RECOMMENDED: Food stamps: How does the program work? When word got out Saturday that the EBT cards were showing no limits, card holders rushed to area Walmarts to take advantage. “Some people had eight or 10 shopping carts full of groceries,”Springhill PoliceChiefWill Lyndsaid on Monday. Xerox said on Saturday that its systems that process EBT transactions suffered an outage stemming from routine testing of backup generators that malfunctioned.Louisianawas one of 17 states affected by the outage. Kayla Whiting, a spokeswoman atWal-Mart’s Bentonville,Arkansas, headquarters, pointed to Xerox as the source of the problem and referred further questions to Xerox. Xerox corporate spokesmanBill McKeeprovided a written company statement saying that Xerox has a “documented process for retailers likeWal-Martto follow in response to EBT outages.” But the statement left unclear who would cover the unauthorized spending, and it referred further questions toWalmart. Louisianaofficials said they had no intention of being left holding the bag. “The outage was the result of failures by our contractor, Xerox,” saidTrey Williams, a spokesman for theLouisianaDepartment of Children and Family Services. He said emergency procedures in place with Xerox allow retailers to call a phone number and receive authorization for purchases any time the EBT system is down.

(AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, John Spink, File) Proponents of boosting low wages strategically shifted their focus to U.S. taxpayers Tuesday, issuing two studies contending the public foots the bill for billions of dollars in public assistance for fast-food workers. The companion studies, issued by the National Employment Law Project and researchers at the University of California, Berkeley ,are the latest attempt to generate public pressure on fast-food companies and other employers accused of overpaying executives and shortchanging frontline workers. Low-wage critics, including unions in search of new members, have also been trying to pressure lawmakers to advance wage-increase proposals at the local, state and federal levels. Until these companies do something, this movement is only going to continue to grow, said Jack Temple, policy analyst for NELP, an advocacy group for the working poor and unemployed. The researchers said 52% of the families of frontline fast-food workers are enrolled in one or more public programs. They estimated that the cost of public assistance to families of fast-food workers is nearly $7 billion a year, including expenses for food stamps, Earned Income Tax Credit payments and Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor. The studies drew praise and criticism, underscoring the often-partisan divide over boosting low wages. The National Restaurant Association called the reports misleading.The researchers used a very narrow lens and selective data to attack the industry for their own purposes, said Scott DeFife, the trade groups executive vice president of policy and government affairs. He also said the reports fail to recognize that the majority of lower-wage employees works part-time to supplement a family income. But Rep. George Miller, the senior Democratic on the House Education and the Workforce Committee and author of a bill to gradually boost the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from $7.25, said the reports highlight the significant costs to our families and our economy of low wages paid by the multibillion dollar fast-food industry. If these companies paid more, those families could live better and the nation could invest more money to improve roads, schools and create more good-paying jobs, Mr.

“Getting paid helps, but it doesn’t help right now,” said one, who acknowledged she’ll probably get paid once the shutdown ends. Still, the woman said she is struggling to put food on the table. Some told CNN they were living paycheck to paycheck. “The biggest thing (people are feeling) is fear,” said Hahn. “Even a lot of federal employees who know that they’re going to get their checks made up, they’re still going to be shy” if they miss a couple of pay periods. President Barack Obama visited a food pantry in downtown Washington on Monday where he helped make peanut butter sandwiches. He told reporters that he stopped by Martha’s Table because many of volunteers there had been furloughed. “They’re here contributing and giving back to the community and I think that shows the kind of spirit that we have among all kinds of federal workers all across the country, people who dedicate their lives to public service,” Obama said. Hahn, who has worked for Chesapeake Church for 20 years, said many of the men and women he saw collect food on Monday were new faces who had never sought their help in the past. While a study by Main Street showed that Calvert County was the 13th wealthiest county in the United States in 2012, Hahn said that ranking doesn’t show how many “working poor” live in the area. “It’s a damn shame,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley told CNN. “It’s no fault of their own, but they find themselves now in a position of, of having to come here for help.” O’Malley, who attended the event, said he would recommend that “those who for ideological reasons feel shutting down our government is a good idea” should “come here and see the families that are showing up for help to feed their families for the first time in their lives.” As volunteers passed out food, there was obvious frustration with political leaders in Washington. Those in line lamented the fact they were expected to just go without pay.