The recession may have ended in June 2009, but more than a year later the number of Americans using food stamps has skyrocketed.
In total, 42,389,619 Americans received food stamps in August of this year, a record amount and a year-over-year increase of 17%, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. By comparison, a little more than 27 million people received food stamps in December 2007, the month that the recession officially began.
Food stamp usage rose in all 50 states during the previous year, with Idaho seeing the steepest year-over-year increase of 38.8%. West Virginia, on the other hand, had the smallest increase of 6.7%.
It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that food stamp usage would increase, given that the number of Americans who have been unemployed for six months or longer has increased to 6.2 million, while the total number of unemployed sits at more than 14 million. In fact, according to a Census report from earlier this year, the poverty rate in the U.S. hit a 16-year high at the end of last year.
Yet, while the number of people receiving food stamps has increased significantly in recent years, the amount of benefits received has remained virtually unchanged. In August of this year, the average household received $287.82 through the nutritional assistance program, and the average individual received $133.90. One year prior, the average household received $292.23, while the average individual received $133.71.
According to the official guidelines for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, individuals are only eligible for food stamps if they earn $1,174 or less in gross monthly income, and the maximum amount an individual can receive per month in food stamps is $200. For a family of four, the total monthly income cannot exceed $2,389, and the maximum payout of food stamps is $668.