Fast food industry carries supersized cost for Fla taxpayers, report saysby John Kennedy | October 15th, 2013
A new study shows that the fast-food industry costs Florida taxpayers $348 million-a-year because low-wages paid workers and their families qualify for a range of public assistance programs.
The University of California-Berkeley findings show low wages in the burger-and-fries trade contribute to $7 billion in public costs nationwide. Florida ranks fifth in the nation in public costs behind California, Texas, New York and Illinois.
According to Berkeley researchers, 55 percent of Florida’s 115,000 fast-food workers participate in such programs as Medicaid, food stamps and the federal earned income tax credit.
“The taxpayer costs we discovered were staggering,” said Ken Jacobs, chair of UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education and coauthor of the report. “People who work in fast-food jobs are paid so little that having to rely on public assistance is the rule, rather than the exception, even for those working 40 hours or more a week.”
Researchers found the median wage for front-line workers at fast-food restaurants nationally is $8.69 an hour. Only 13 percent of the jobs provide health benefits.
Florida has the nation’s second largest uninsured population — roughly 3.8 million people. Many of Florida’s uninsured are low-income workers in the state’s tourism, health care and other service industries.
Health care activists and advocates for low-income Floridians have been pushing Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers to expand Medicaid, an option under the Affordable Care Act that would cover an additional 1.1 million Floridians. But the effort seems to have lost momentum, with Florida among 26 states refusing to expand.
House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has led the opposition, saying Florida can’t rely on federal promises to pay the bulk of the expansion cost.
The Berkeley report is here: http://bit.ly/1cpewa2