Columbus-based Aflac, Inc. announced in a press release Thursday it would make $250 million in investments to strengthen its workforce, promote growth and enhance its commitment to supporting childhood cancer initiatives,
The company said the investments are a result of the passage of the $1.5 trillion Republican-led tax bill, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Dec. 22. The law enacts sweeping changes to tax law and will give around 80 percent of individuals a tax cut next year, reported the Associated Press.
The corporate tax rate was sliced from 35 percent to 21 percent, which the GOP believes will lead companies to redirect money to grow their businesses. Democrats, whose opposition to the law was nearly universal, characterized the legislation as a massive handout to the super wealthy under the guise of helping the middle class.
"The decision to invest the $250 million is a direct result of the tax reform, although its not unlike Aflac to invest in its employees," said Aflac spokesperson Jon Sullivan. He added Aflac has been named one of Fortune magazine's 100 Best Companies to Work for in America for 19 consecutive years.
"We are pleased that these tax reforms provide Aflac with an opportunity to increase our investments in initiatives that reflect our company values; providing for our employees in the long and short term, ensuring future growth for our company and giving back to the community," Aflac Chairman and CEO Dan Amos said in the release.
"We will use these funds to help secure healthy retirements, develop employee skills in an evolving global business climate, and provide additional protections for our workers and their families. At the same time, we will strategically invest in growing our business, while increasing our commitment to children and families facing childhood cancer."
Aflac plans to increase the company's 401(k) retirement plan matching service from 50 percent to 100 percent on the first 4 percent of employee contributions and will make an additional one-time contribution of $500 to each employee's plan as well.
It will also begin offering certain supplemental hospital and accident insurance products to all its employees free of charge.
The news release said the company will focus on growing its operations in the U.S. and in investing in new technology and digital businesses. The release named a North Carolina company called Empowered as an example, a business owned by Aflac which provides internet-based benefit administration services to insurers. The company also says it will expand its philanthropic work as well.
"We will strategically invest in growing our business, while increasing our commitment to children and families facing childhood cancer," the release said. Aflac is known for its work in cancer philanthropy, and says it has raised and contributed more than $120 million for research and treatment of childhood cancer.
The supplemental insurance provider has enjoyed a successful financial year. Shares have climbed month after month in 2017, were trading at $87.96 Thursday afternoon, up from a low of $67.17 in February. In October, the company reported a $716 million profit.
Sullivan said the goal is for Aflac to continuously grow, and that growth includes its human resources. "Making investments in our people is a part of that overall growth strategy," he said. "We want to make sure you are competing in the realm of talent as well."