Rep. Tom Rice touts raises for Walmart employees in Mullins

MULLINS, SC (WMBF) – On Friday, Congressman Tom Rice visited Walmart employees in Mullins who have directly benefited from the tax reform act.

Recently, some Mullins Walmart employees received their bonus checks from the major corporation.

"What I didn't anticipate is when these companies' taxes were lowered was (they would) do this responsible thing and give bonuses and raises to their employees," Rice said.

As a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Walmart announced in January that its employees would receive raises and bonuses. Minimum wage has been raised to $11 an hour and eligible employees will get up to a $1,000 bonus.

One person Rice met with Friday has been a Walmart employee for 20 years. Others who received bonuses expressed to the congressman their hardship after Hurricane Matthew struck.

"This area was really hurt in the last decade by offshoring of jobs and by the tobacco going away," Rice said.

Rick Fowler, a small business owner in Mullins, thinks what Walmart is doing is beneficial to the people who work and live in small towns like his.

Fowler Furniture and Bedding in downtown Mullins has been a family owned and operated business since 1959.

As a member of the Mullins business community for many years, Fowler says the increase in Walmart benefits is what the area needs.

"In our area, I think it's an awesome thing. Our area has been in a tough, you know, economic situation for a while. I think anytime they can make more money it's a great thing," Fowler said.

Fowler has furniture stores in Mullins and Dillon, with nine employees total. While businesses in bigger cities may feel the pressure from Walmart's employee benefits, he said smaller businesses have different incentives.

"Sometimes they have the advantage of being able to come and go as they need, so it's little things like that that I think help," he said. "So it's not always about the money."

Still, for people in the Mullins area, that extra chuck of change can go a long way.

While talking with some employees who received their increase in benefits, Rice said people can see first-hand the local impact of the tax reform act.

"A lot of the folks here in Walmart are getting thousand dollar bonuses, and that will ripple through the economy and it will contribute to further acceleration to the economy," Rice said.

It's a ripple effect that Fowler hopes will reach his business. He believes the more money put in people's pockets, the more they have to spend.

"Any time you get more money, I think that you go out and use that money and it can help businesses like mine, where you offer reasonable prices on things," Fowler said. "It helps the restaurants."

Walmart also announced an increase in parental leave benefits and help with adoption expenses for its employees.

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