Looking at South Dakota, the Berkeley researchers calculate that each year, 24,000 working families use SNAP/food stamps, 50,000 get the Earned Income Tax Credit, and 68,000 use Medicaid (see page 6 of the full report). Working South Dakota families receive $286 million in federal assistance, 56% of the total assistance Uncle Sam spends on these programs in South Dakota (p. 7). Looking at state costs, the researchers find that South Dakota spends $48 million out its $89 million (56%) for Medicaid/CHIP and TANF on working families.
When employers don’t respect the dignity of their workers with wages that can cover basic needs, we decent citizens step in with food stamps, Medicaid, and other assistance to make sure those workers and their children can survive. Public assistance will always be less efficient than direct wage payment: individuals have to apply, public officials need to administer. It would be fairer and more efficient for employers to directly pay employees a living wage than to let employers shift the cost of doing business to the rest of us taxpayers.