In 2015, Ohio gave Amazon more than $17 million in tax breaks to open its first two supply centers in the state. The handout was heralded as a job-creator.
From August 2017, more than one in ten of those new Ohio Amazon workers or their loved ones obtained government food aid, state statistics show.
The data, obtained by the research team Policy Matters Ohio and shared with The Daily Beast, imply chronic poverty at the once-promising Amazon centers. Policy Matters Ohio estimates that more than one in ten Amazon workers in Ohio get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, which can be available to families and people living below the poverty line. Meanwhile, Amazon is living large in Ohio, receiving more than $125 million in tax breaks and money grants to open new centers in the state since 2014.
The Policy Matters Ohio study, gathered from Ohio Department of Job and Family Services data, ranks the state’s employers with the most workers in households that get SNAP benefits. Fast food restaurants and discount shops dominate the list’s top places. Walmart leads the positions, with 11,560 workers in households reliant on food aid.
But Amazon is among the fastest-risers throughout the ranks. As of this August 2017 data, Amazon ranked nineteenth in the country, with 1,430 workers in households receiving SNAP benefits.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Amazon said that it had been paying its fulltime employees a living wage.
“Amazon full-time hourly workers in Ohio earn between $14.50 and $15 an hour as a starting wage with regular pay gains plus Amazon stock and performance based bonuses,” a company spokesperson said. “We also give comprehensive benefits including health, vision, and dental insurance coverage starting on day one, generous maternity and family leave, tuition for career education, and a network of support to be successful.”
Amazon’s look on the record is a steep increase in the positions for a company that, until lately, had no Ohio workers.
“In Ohio for many years, Amazon had no physical existence, very purposely therefore,” Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters Ohio, told The Daily Beast, including that Amazon stayed out of particular countries to prevent paying taxes there. “But in the past few years, Amazon has shifted its business strategy. They decided they need to be able to deliver very quickly all over the country, requiring them to have satisfaction centers all over the country. In Ohio, two big satisfaction centers opened outside Columbus in the past couple of years.”
Ohio bid hard for all those centers, finally awarding Amazon more than $17 million in tax breaks for both centers.
“Ohio is competing with numerous Midwest countries for both satisfaction facilities,” the country said in a 2015 announcement, after it had been disclosed that the Ohio Tax Credit Authority had tried luring Amazon using a 75 percent, 15-year tax credit.
Ohio’s return on those handouts is often obscure. Amazon’s first two fulfillment centers were among a series of deals brokered in part by JobsOhio, a privately owned jobs development agency that works with the state’s government. Not even Ohio officials know the full details of bargains JobsOhio brokered with Amazon. JobsOhio is part of Governor John Kasich’s push to privatize the state’s endeavors creation efforts, and the bureau is famously opaque.
When Ohio State Auditor David Yost pushed to get more transparency from JobsOhio in 2013, Kasich backed a bill barring state officials by auditing the bureau, Bloomberg formerly reported.
The often-murky origins of the state’s enormous Amazon tax breaks have contributed to speculation that the e-commerce giant is getting too great a reduction, without passing the wealth onto its employees.
Ohio’s typical SNAP-receiving household is a two-person family, Schiller said. Dependent on the country data, which reveals 1,430 Amazon workers in households that receive food aid, “it seems likely about 700 workers get benefits,” Schiller said. Out of the state’s roughly 6,000 Amazon workers, that is greater than just one in 10 about SNAP benefits.
Amazon workers’ SNAP eligibility may not be an issue of salary. Full-time staff in the Ohio centers get between $14.50 and $15, job listings reveal. But employees may not be getting sufficient hours to earn a living wage.
“To the degree that Amazon has a great deal of part-time workers, even though Amazon paid much more than minimum wage, they may still appear on the list,” Schiller said. “If you have a lot of temporary employees, as Amazon does, you may also appear on the list.”