The number of Americans receiving food stamps continues to rise during as economy improves at a sluggish pace.
A record of 47.1 million Americans received food stamps in the month of August, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or SNAP.
Close to 15 million – or 13 percent – of U.S. households received SNAP benefits in 2011, according to a related report released yesterday by the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s roughly 10 percent more than the 13.6 million households who received benefits in 2010.
The SNAP program was created by the Food Stamp Act of 1977 to help low-income households to obtain a “more nutritious diet,” according to the Census Bureau. (The program was renamed in 2008.) To qualify for SNAP a household must have assets of less than $2,000 and a gross monthly income that’s less than 130 percent of federal poverty guidelines. That comes out to $2,422 for a family of four, according to the USDA.
The steady increase in SNAP enrollment, despite declining unemployment and a slowly growing economy, has drawn criticism from Republicans and earned President Obama the unflattering title of “food stamp president.” Millionaire Corner research finds that wealthy Americans are unlikely to know someone using food stamps. Just over 17 percent of Millionaire investors surveyed in October are acquainted with someone receiving SNAP benefits. Our results also indicate the more distanced individuals are from the program, the more likely they are to see SNAP as vulnerable to abuse. Roughly 90 percent of Millionaires perceive SNAP as easily abused. About 30 percent of Millionaires believe one-fourth to one-half of food stamp usage is fraudulent, while 43 percent believe abuse involves 10 to 25 percent of users and 17 percent believe 51 percent or more of food stamp users are abusing the system.
SNAP usage rates were highest in the state of Oregon, where 18.9 percent of households received food stamps, according to yesterday’s Census Report. States with more than 15 percent of households receiving food stamps including Arkansas (15.3 percent), Georgia (15.1 percent), Kentucky (17.4 percent), Louisiana (16.4 percent), Maine (17.5 percent), Michigan (18.1 percent), Mississippi (17.3 percent), New Mexico (15.4 percent), New York (15.2 percent), Ohio (15.2 percent), South Carolina (15.4 percent), Tennessee (17.6 percent), Washington (16 percent) and Puerto Rico (37.5 percent).
States with the lowest rates of households receiving food stamps include California (8.3 percent), Colorado (8.3 percent), Kansas (9.7 percent), Maryland (9.9 percent), Nebraska (9.2 percent) New Hampshire (8.3 percent), New Jersey (8 percent,) North Dakota (8.8 percent), Utah (9.9 percent), Virginia(9.6 percent) and Wyoming (5.9 percent).