The cost of the food stamp program has soared under President Barack Obama and the number of U.S. households receiving benefits reached a record high in March, according to newly released data from the Agriculture Department.
The data show that 23,116,441 households are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), each receiving an average of $274 a month. That’s an increase of 27,600 households from the previous record, set in January.
The number of individuals on SNAP stood at 47,727,052 in March — about one in seven Americans — down only slightly from a record high in December of 47,792,056, according to The Daily Caller. Each received an average of $133 a month.
The cost of the food stamp program has quadrupled since 2001 and doubled since Obama took office. It cost taxpayers about $80 billion last year, and accounts for about 80 percent of farm bill spending.
On Monday, the Senate passed a new farm bill that will cost about $955 billion over 10 years. The bill cuts about $4.1 billion from SNAP over the 10 years.
But a bill pending in the Republican-controlled House would cut about $20 billion from the program over 10 years and make it more difficult for some people to qualify for the benefits.
The House in 2012 declined to take up the legislation during an election year amid disagreements over how much should be cut from SNAP, The New York Times reported.
A Kaiser/Harvard/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation poll in January found that 28 percent of respondents were willing to make major reductions to food stamp spending, 41 percent supported minor reductions, and just 29 percent favored keeping spending at present levels.
Food-stamp use rose 1.8% in the U.S. in January from a year earlier, with 15% of the U.S. population receiving benefits.
One of the federal government’s biggest social welfare programs, which expanded when the economy convulsed, isn’t shrinking back alongside the recovery, the Wall Street Journal reported last month.
Food stamp rolls increased on a year-over-year basis, but were 1.1% lower from the prior month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported. Though annual growth continues, the pace has slowed since the depths of the recession.
Illinois was the only state to see a double-digit year-over-year jumps in use, while Oregon, Maine, Missouri, Texas, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Idaho, North Dakota, Utah and North Carolina all posted annual drops.
Mississippi was the state with the largest share of its population relying on food stamps — 22% — though Washington, DC was a bit higher overall at 23%. One in five residents in Louisiana, Tennessee and George also were food-stamp recipients. Wyoming had the smallest share of its population on food stamps — 7%.