A record 46.7 million Americans received food stamps in June, up 0.4 percent from the previous month, the government said.
Participation was 3.3 percent higher than a year earlier and has remained higher than 46 million all year as the unemployment rate has stagnated just above 8 percent. New jobless numbers will be released Sept. 7.
"Unemployment is stubbornly stuck," making it difficult to significantly reduce the number of food-stamp recipients, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in an interview last month. "While people are going back to work, and there are jobs being added, they aren't being added at a clip that is as robust as anybody wants."
Food-stamp spending, which has more than doubled in four years to a record $75.7 billion in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2011, is the USDA's biggest annual expense. Reductions in the program have 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.
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.