Also on Walmart’s Employment Funding Radar: People with Disabilities and Veterans

Employment and workforce funding are a big part of Walmart’s overall grantmaking strategy, as with many other funders. We've been tracking the evolution of that funding over the past year, and how the foundation seems particularly intent on channeling resources to help women and minorities. It's significant grantmaking and, along with the company's decision to raise worker pay this year, suggests that Walmartafter years of criticismis becoming more attuned to the needs of America's most vulernable people. 

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Other struggling groups on this funder's radar are disabled Americans and veterans. 

The Walmart Foundation recently announced $40,000 in support for the Arc of Greater Plymouth to support paid internships that lead to jobs for people with developmental or physical disabilities. This money fund 12-week paid internships for disabled individuals who are 22 years and older and in desperate need of skills training. But these jobs won’t necessarily be at Walmart; opportunities will be sought in food service, maintenance, retail, office work, landscaping, teaching/training, animal care, working with children and the elderly, sports, fundraising, and computers.

“The Arc of Greater Plymouth has been doing great work with people in the community who have intellectual or other developmental disabilities,” said Chris Buchanan, Walmart’s director of public affairs and government relations. “We look forward to continuing to see positive outcomes from their program and are proud to partner with such an incredible organization.”

Overall, Walmart’s support for jobs has been largely focused on veterans in 2015, including $750,000 for veterans in Illinois and $350,000 for veterans and military families in North Carolina. However, disabled adults make up a huge part of the unemployed population, too. The Arc of Greater Plymouth’s initiative has decreased the unemployment rate of people with disabilities in the program by 47 percent, and management expects this further funding to decrease it by 31 to 62 percent.

Walmart’s employment funding is part of its “Opportunity” focus area, and the target demographics are consistently women, veterans, and small business owners. In February 2015, the Walmart Foundation announced that $16 million initial investment as part of a larger $100,000 commitment to educate and train retail workers. For the foreseeable future, there are no indications that the physically and developmentally disabled will emerge as a higher priority for this corporate funder, but we can always hope.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 17.1 percent of people with disabilities were employed in 2014. It’s estimated that 48.9 million Americans (that’s 19.4 percent of the non-institutionalized civilians) have a disability. And those statistics really aren’t getting much better as time goes by. Meaningful work for undervalued people is a big problem that only a few select funders are really paying attention to, these days.

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Walmart’s national program grants are meant for nonprofits that operate on a nationwide scale and are at least $250,000. Meanwhile, grants between $25,000 and $250,000 are awarded in all 50 states as part of the funder’s state giving program (like this disability employment effort that we've highlighted here). Only Northwest Arkansas receives special priority, but here, the focus is on hunger, health, and arts & recreation, rather than employment. The state giving application is closed for the moment and expected to open up again in early 2016.