Nancy Salgado has worked at a McDonald’s in Chicago for the last 10 years, earning minimum wage while struggling to support her 7-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.
So she recently called the fast food chain’s employee hotline — known as McResources — to see whether the company could help improve her situation.
But all she got was advice on getting government assistance, such as food stamps and Medicaid, to supplement her low wages.
“I was pretty upset,” Salgado, 27, told Business Insider in a phone interview Thursday. “It makes me mad because I was expecting another answer instead of, ‘Here’s how you can get federal money.'”
Salgado recorded the call and gave the audio to the fair labour advocacy group Low Pay Is Not OK, which published parts of it online Wednesday. She says she initially recorded the call — and informed McDonald’s that she would be doing so — so she could share it with her sister.
On the full audio of the call obtained by Business Insider, Salgado asks for help with her heating bills and the McResources employee responds by telling her she can get government assistance through LIHEAP, or the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. As she searches for a number that Salgado can call in Chicago to ask about the program, the McResources employee adds, “You can ask about things like food pantries. Are you on SNAP? …SNAP is Supplemental Nutritional Assistance — food stamps.”
“You may be eligible to get some money. Do you have kids?” she asks.
Salgado says she has two kids and the McResources worker continues, “You would most likely be eligible for SNAP benefits…. Sometimes it’s a couple hundred dollars a month sometimes it’s more. …It takes a lot of the pressure off how much money you spend on groceries.”
Salgado asks what the program does and she explains, “It’s a federal program. Federal money comes down to the states and the states administer it.”
Concerning help with medical bills, the McResources worker says, “Did you try to get on Medicaid? …Medicaid is a federal program. It’s health coverage for low-income or no-income adults and children. …Let me find the number that you can call in Chicago to find help with all of your questions.”
McDonald’s has not responded to Business Insider’s request for comment on this story. In a statement to ABC News, McDonald’s USA said the video “is not an accurate portrayal of the resource line as this is very obviously an edited video. The fact is that the McResource Line is intended to be a free, confidential service to help employees and their families get answers to a variety of questions or provide resources on a variety of topics including housing, child care, transportation, grief, elder care, education and more.”
Salgado earns $US8.25 an hour at McDonald’s, which keeps her — like tens of thousands of other fast food workers — below the poverty line.
“It’s been really hard not being able to provide things — like shoes — for the kids,” Salgado said. Overall, one in five families of fast food workers are living in poverty, according to a recent report written by economists at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Illinois.
The same report found that 52% of fast food workers’ families rely on government programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, costing taxpayers roughly $US7 billion annually. By comparison, roughly 25% of the total workforce is enrolled in public assistance programs.
Salgado said she has tried to get government assistance in the past, but it has been too complicated of a process. She said she was really hoping that McDonald’s would help her take advantage of company resources, not direct her to phone lines for federal assistance programs.
Watch the video from Low Pay Is Not OK: