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Wal-Mart Workers Cost Taxpayers $6.2B Because They Need Public Assistance

Wal-Mart’s low-wage workers cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $6.2 billion in public assistance, including food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing, according to a report published to coincide with Tax Day, April 15.

Americans for Tax Fairness, a coalition of 400 national and state-level progressive groups, made this estimate using data from a 2013 study by Democratic staff of the U.S. Committee on Education and the Workforce.

“The study estimated the cost to Wisconsin’s taxpayers of Wal-Mart’s low wages and benefits, which often force workers to rely on various public assistance programs,” reads the report.

“It found that a single Wal-Mart Supercenter cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year, or between $3,015 and $5,815 on average for each of 300 workers.”

Americans for Tax Fairness then took the mid-point of that range ($4,415) and multiplied it by Wal-Mart’s approximately 1.4 million workers to come up with an estimate of the overall taxpayers’ bill for the Bentonville, Ark.-based big box giant’s staffers.

The report provides a state-by-state breakdown of these figures, as well as some context on the other side of the coin: Wal-Mart’s huge share of the nationwide SNAP, or food stamp, market.

“Wal-Mart told analysts last year that the company has captured 18 percent of the SNAP market,” it reads. “Using that figure, we estimate that the company accounted for $13.5 billion out of $76 billion in food stamp sales in 2013.”

Other large retail chains have been the focus of similar reports in recent months. In October, two studies released to coincide showed that the American fast-food industry outsourced a combined $7 billion in annual labor costs to taxpayers. McDonald’s alone accounted for $1.2 billion of that outlay.

Yum Brands came in a distant No. 2, with its Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC subsidiaries costing $648 million in benefits programs for workers each year.

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