Breaking News Bar
posted: 9/4/2012 1:59 PM

Food-stamp use climbs to record, reviving campaign issue

hello
Success - Article sent! close
 
Bloomberg

Food-stamp use reached a record 46.7 million people in June, the government said, as Democrats prepare to nominate President Barack Obama for a second term with the economy as a chief issue in the campaign.

Participation was up 0.4 percent from May and 3.3 percent higher than a year earlier and has remained greater than 46 million all year as the unemployment rate stayed higher than 8 percent. New jobless numbers will be released Sept. 7.

Order Reprint Print Article
 
Interested in reusing this article?
Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.
The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.
Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Success - request sent close

"Too many middle-class families who have fallen on hard times are still struggling," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in an e-mailed statement today. "Our goal is to get these families the temporary assistance they need so they are able to get through these tough times and back on their feet as soon as possible."

Food-stamp spending, which more than doubled in four years to a record $75.7 billion in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2011, is the U.S. Department of Agriulture's biggest annual expense. Republicans in Congress have criticized the cost of the program, and the House budget plan approved in April sponsored by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the party's vice- presidential nominee, would cut expenses by $33 billion over 10 years.

"We need a new direction," Amanda Henneberg, a spokeswoman for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, said in an e-mail. "Democrats are desperately trying to convince voters that they are better off than they were four years ago. But the opposite is true," as evidenced by the food- stamp numbers, she said.

Reductions to the program have also emerged as a point of contention in debate over a farm bill to replace current law that expires Sept. 30. The U.S. Senate in June passed a plan that would lower expenditures by $4 billion over 10 years, while the House Agriculture Committee the following month backed a $16 billion cut.

During the Republican primary campaign, then-candidate Newt Gingrich labeled Obama as "the best food-stamp president in American history." When the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called his statements "inaccurate" and "divisive," Gingrich dismissed the complaints as a smear from "modern liberals" who are "off the deep end."

Food-stamp enrollment is rising partly because the USDA is pushing higher participation too aggressively, giving government money to people who may not need or want it, U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions said in a telephone interview.

"This administration has been hawking food stamps," said the Alabama Republican, who has called for lower spending on the program. "Every additional dollar in this program is borrowed money," he said. "It's one more example of government incompetence."

Today's report shows the two most populous states, California and Texas, had the most recipients. California was tops with 4.012 million, a 0.8 percent gain from the previous month and 7.3 percent more than the previous year. Texas was in second place, while down 0.4 percent from the previous month and 1.4 percent lower than a year earlier.

Louisiana and North Carolina, where Democrats are meeting this week to nominate Obama, had the biggest monthly gains in enrollment, 1.3 percent. Enrollment fell the most in Utah, down 1.4 percent from May, followed by Idaho and Ohio.

Spending on what's officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program totaled $6.21 billion in June, 0.4 percent higher than the previous month and 2.8 percent more than a year earlier. The record is $6.26 billion spent in September 2011.

About 47 percent of recipients are children, and 8 percent are elderly, according to the USDA. About half of all new recipients leave the program within 10 months.

Share this page
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.