Thursday, April 02, 2009
Wow, where do you go from here? Fifteen percent?
The Associated Press reports that more than 32 million Americans now sheepishly pull food stamps out of their purse or wallet in the checkout line and the bad news is that things are likely to get worse from here.
Given that labor markets are a lagging indicator, likely to get much worse before any net job creation begins, the number of food stamp recipients may go much higher this year.
Food stamps are the major U.S. antihunger program and help poor people buy groceries. The average benefit was $112.82 per person in January.Well, if the government can't do anything about the underlying causes of families not being able to put food on the table, at least they have a new "snappy" acronym.
The January figure marks the third time in five months that enrollment set a record.
"A weakened economy means that many more individuals are turning to SNAP/Food Stamps," said the Food Research and Action Center, an antihunger group, using the acronym for the renamed food stamp program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Tomorrow's labor report is likely to provide a pretty good indication of whether they'll have to add another shift for the food stamp printing presses. If economic reports so far this week are any indication - new highs for weekly jobless claims and new lows for the ADP employment report - they might want to start placing some help wanted ads.
Food stamp enrollment rose in all but four of the 50 states during January, said Agriculture Department figures. Vermont, Alaska and South Dakota had increases of more than 5 percent. Texas had the largest enrollment, 2.984 million, down 65,000, followed by California at 2.545 million, up 43,000, and New York with 2.211 million, up 37,000.If those statistics and my math are both correct, benefits for a family of four go from a little over $600 a month to almost $700 a month.
Food stamp benefits get a temporary 13 percent increase, beginning with this month, under the economic stimulus law signed by President Barack Obama. The increase equals $80 a month for a household of four.
You can actually buy a lot of groceries for that amount of money, particularly the high-calorie, processed variety.