Food Stamp Enrollment Drops

Wednesday, 14 May 2014 08:01 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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After a surge in the food stamp rolls since President Obama took office, the number of recipients saw a drop — 1.2 million fewer recipients — between October and February, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The most current data available is from February and it shows that $5.8 billion was paid out in food stamp benefits that month to 46.2 million Americans, down from the March 2013 peak of 47.7 million people, according to the Journal, which notes that food stamp spending in February was the lowest level since 2010.

In January, The Associated Press reported that the federal government shells out $80 billion per year for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, the name of the program formerly known as food stamps. That figure is double what it was five years ago, and for the first time, the majority of recipients are working-age people. Historically, children and the elderly comprised the bulk of Americans receiving food stamps, according to AP.

One in seven Americans received food stamps, according to the analysis of government data for AP by economists at the University of Kentucky. Since 2009, the year President Barack Obama assumed office, more than half of food stamp recipients have been adults ages 18 to 59, according to the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, AP reported.

The ballooning levels were blamed on the faltering economy as well as expanded eligibility requirements and government outreach to enroll more Americans, according to the Journal.

Republicans such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Vice President Dick Cheney have criticized Obama for the enrollment increases.

The food stamp debate falls mostly along party lines, with Republicans seeking both spending cuts and expanded work requirements, as well as shifting responsibility for the program to states.

In February, Obama signed a farm bill that included a small reduction — about 1 percent, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack — of the food stamp budget. The February bipartisan deal made some changes to how recipients qualify but largely left the current structure intact, according to the Journal.

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