44,587,328 People are on Food Stamps in the United States

The number of people on food stamps in the United States is still growing.

 

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There were 311,870,000 people in the United States, mid March. 44,587,328 of them were on food stamps. That's 14.3% of all Americans on food stamps. The average monthly amount? $134.21.

This is the new economic metric, how many people are so poor, so broke, they quality and use food stamps. The data is hard to find, not explained and located on the USDA site.

Even more telling the amount of people on food stamps has increased 64.2% since October 2007.

To make things more ridiculous, New Mexico is considering ending food stamps for the disabled and elderly.

About 4,000 low-income elderly and disabled New Mexicans will see their food stamp benefits drop in July due to state budget cuts.

Congress, yes our lovely non-responsive Congress is literally considering cutting food stamps:

Nutrition assistance now accounts for more than half -- or about 67 percent -- of the USDA’s budget, compared with 26 percent in 1980. That shift in focus, critics say, is ineffective because it hasn’t put a dent in poverty or hunger in the United States while taking away money from other programs, specifically agricultural programs that should be the main focus of the agency.

Even “at a time of prosperity, we have increased the amount of money we are spending for people to buy food,” said Harold Brown, an agriculture scientist and adjunct scholar at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. “The appropriation of money by Congress has never solved poverty or the resulting problems of poverty. When President Johnson declared war on poverty a half century ago nearly, we thought we saw the end of it as far as food and nutrition goes. For the Department of Agriculture, we only saw the beginning.”

The Republicans’ 2012 budget plan proposes changing SNAP from an entitlement to a block-grant program that would be tailored for each individual state, much like their proposal for Medicaid. States would no longer receive open-ended subsidies and the aid would be contingent on work or job training. It would also limit funding for the program.

Oh, food stamps never solved poverty, therefore people should starve. Love the logic!

In almost every state, food stamp usage has risen with the yearly average in crease 11.1%. The Wall Street Journal analyzed state food stamp data and scaled it to each state's overall population.

Of course the state with the lowest unemployment rate has the lowest food stamp usage rate.

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Wish I Got Food Stamps-Would in NY

I've been wanting to say this since I first read this post.

The federal government revised the Food Stamps rules to allow people who still have more than $2,000 in assets to get them -- IF they are not receiving any income. In other words, if you're unemployed and not getting any unemployment but still have more than $2,000 in savings. Fed picks up cost, except state has to pay 1/2 administrative cost. So far New Jersey has not updated its law concern assets.

Here's the AP article on this that I read last fall:

More working families getting government food aid

By MARK NIESSE, Associated Press Writer Mark Niesse, Associated Press Writer – Fri Oct 22, 4:45 pm ET

HONOLULU – Lillie Gonzales does whatever it takes to provide for three ravenous sons who live under her roof. She grows her own vegetables at home on Kauai, runs her own small business and like a record 42 million other Americans, she relies on food stamps.

Gonzales and her husband consistently qualify for food stamps now that Hawaii and other states are quietly expanding eligibility and offering the benefit to more working, moderate income families.

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reviewed by The Associated Press shows that 30 states have adopted rules making it easier to qualify for food stamps since 2007. In all, 38 states have loosened eligibility standards.

Hawaii has gone farther than most, allowing a family like Gonzales' to earn up to $59,328 and still get food stamps.

Prior to an Oct. 1 increase, the income eligibility limit for a Hawaii family of five was $38,568 a year.

"If I didn't have food stamps, I would be buying white rice and Spam every day," said Gonzales, whose Island Angels business makes Hawaiian-style fabric angel ornaments, quilts, aprons and purses.

Eligibility for food stamps varies from state to state, with the 11 most generous states allowing families to apply if their gross income is less than double the federal poverty line of $22,050 for a family of four on the U.S. mainland. The threshold is higher in Alaska and Hawaii.

With more than 1 in 8 Americans now on food stamps, participation in the program has jumped about 70 percent from 26 million in May 2007, while the nation's unemployment rate rose from 4.3 percent to 9.2 percent through September of this year.

"We've seen a huge increase in participation due to the economic downturn," said Jean Daniel, a spokeswoman for the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service. "That's the way this program was designed."

In addition to helping alleviate economic pressures, many states embrace the popularity of food stamps because their cost — $50 billion last year — is paid entirely by the federal government. States are only responsible for paying half of their programs' administrative costs.

Food stamps have been blasted by some Republicans in this midterm election season as just another federal entitlement program, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich framing the vote as a choice between "the party of food stamps" and Republican policies that create jobs.

Participants in the food stamp program, technically called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, receive a per person average of $133 per month to buy staples including milk, bread and vegetables.

Shortly after Hawaii announced it was raising its eligibility limits starting this month, three carloads of 10 seniors drove to the Kauai Independent Food Bank to ask if they qualified. Nine of them did, said Judy Lenthall, executive director for the food bank, which helps people apply for food stamps.

"We saw an immediate and overwhelmingly wonderful response," Lenthall said. "It surprised us how fast it's spreading."

States that have relaxed food stamp eligibility did so by moving to a system where applicants could qualify based on their income, and their other assets such as real estate, vehicles and savings accounts could be ignored.

Basing food stamps on income alone allows the newly unemployed and the elderly to seek government food aid without having to first sell their property or exhaust every dollar they've earned, said Sue McGinn, director of the food stamp program in Colorado, which will expand eligibility beginning in March.

"They won't have to wipe out their savings to apply for benefits," McGinn said.

Many of these states also raised income limits, although applicants still have to show they're essentially living at the poverty line after accounting for allowable deductions, including elder medical expenses and child support.

"It helps moderate and low-income people who are struggling," said Stacy Dean of the Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "They're doing everything we want: they're working, paying all their bills, taking care of their kids, and they still don't have enough money at the end of the month to put food on the table."

Since 2000, the only states that haven't enacted the lower food stamp eligibility requirements are Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming.

In Hawaii, where everything from milk to gasoline is typically the highest in the nation, the changes are welcomed by Gonzales and others.

"As long as my kids have good food, that's all I care about," Gonzales said. "It makes a tremendous difference."

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Online:

Food and Nutrition Service: http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/

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