Think the economy is getting better? Think again. USA Today reports that a whopping 20% of American households are getting assistance buying food through the food stamp program. This equates to one in five, according to data provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Food stamp expenditures have also reached an all time high because of the participation rates. According to reports, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), “there were 23,052,388 households on food stamps in the average month of fiscal 2013, an increase of 722,675 from fiscal year 2012, when there were 22,329,713 households on food stamps in the average month.”
Despite Obama’s claims that the country is improving economically, many families would disagree. We have seen a huge spike in the number of households on food stamps since 2009. For instance, Oct. 1, 2008 through Sept. 30, 2009 — the number of households on food stamps was 15,232,115. In 2013 that number increased by 51.3% to reach 23,052,388 households.
Increase for individuals as well as families
As many struggle to find employment in the lagging job market, they have had to rely on food stamps to feed not only their families but also themselves. Reports indicate that the participation rate has increased, not only for entire families, but also for individuals. In fact, according to reports, there are also more individuals using food stamps. The individual participation rate has sky-rocketed to 47,636,084, an increase of 1,027,012 over the 46,609,072 individuals who were using the program in 2012.
The participation rate increase for individuals has been comparable to the increase of family usage over the last 5 years. For instance, the number has increased from 33,489,975 in 2009 to 47,636,084 in 2013, an increase of 42.2%.
Cost of Food Stamps could be unsustainable
If we were only paying for food stamps it might not be a problem, but add to that the cost of disability programs, housing assistance, medical assistance and Social Security benefits and America is facing a real fiscal emergency.
So how much does this all cost? The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates the cost of SNAP has also reached an all-time high. In 2013, the United States government spent $79,641,880,000, which is a 164% increase over the past decade. According to the USDA, “During the last five years, the SNAP program grew by 36.8%, from $58,223,790,000 in 2009 to $79,641,880,000 in 2013.”
What can be done to lower the costs of the program?
Experts disagree about how to cut the cost of the program. Some experts argue participation in the program will naturally decrease as the economy improves and more workers return to work. Opponents, however, argue the country cannot afford the program and have proposed cutting the program by five percent or $40 billion over the next decade. Another step is to attack known fraudulent practices within the system to eliminate waste.
Unfortunately, even the best intentions to help those who are struggling have often led to an entitlement mentality. Some food stamp recipients may become unmotivated to leave the program without forced cuts.
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