Food stamp usage up 58 percent in S. DakotaEnrollment in a federal program that provides food assistance increased by 58 percent in South Dakota between 2007 and 2010, according to the results of a study released this week.
By: Austin Kaus, The Daily Republic
Enrollment in a federal program that provides food assistance increased by 58 percent in South Dakota between 2007 and 2010, according to the results of a study released this week.
The Urban Institute reported that enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps) increased nationally by 69 percent from 2007 to 2010.
Increases in state caseloads varied from 23 percent in Arkansas to 128 percent in Nevada.
South Dakota showed a higher increase than any neighboring states. While Minnesota’s and Wyoming’s respective changes of 56 and 54 percent were only slightly below South Dakota’s increase, other states showed lower increases. Montana and Iowa had enrollment increases of 42 and 43 percent, respectively, while Nebraska and North Dakota had 35 and 33 percent increases.
The report states that unemployment has made more individuals eligible for the benefits, which can be used to purchase breads, meats, dairy, fruits and vegetables. While other factors, including program changes that allow states to make it easier for families to get and keep benefits, have contributed to the increases, the report states that “higher unemployment accounts for the majority of recent caseload growth.”
The growth is reflected locally, according to numbers from the South Dakota Department of Social Services.
In May 2007, Davison County was home to 702 households enrolled in the program. That number increased to 710 in May 2008 and 808 in May 2009. In May 2010, 1,013 households were enrolled in the program in Davison County.
The study states the U.S. House Budget Committee recently passed a major restructuring that would give states a fixed amount of dollars for the program rather than basing assistance strictly on need.
“Such proposals fail to recognize the critical role the program plays during recessions today and historically,” the report states. “Policymakers’ attention should focus on spurring job creation and economic growth through investments in infrastructure, adult education and training and hiring incentives for businesses.”
Studies estimate each dollar of SNAP spending generates $1.78 in economic activity, according to the report.
Emily Currey, communications director for the South Dakota Department of Social Services, was unavailable for comment on Monday.
Other items listed on the report include:
• The SNAP program reaches approximately one in seven Americans.
• More than half of the households enrolled in the SNAP program have children. Of those households, one in five includes a disabled and non-elderly adult. Approximately one in eight participating households include elderly individuals.
• 96 percent of the enrolled individuals are U.S. citizens. The remaining 4 percent are composed of refugees and documented noncitizens. Illegal aliens are not eligible for the program.
• Nearly one in five enrolled households had no countable income. Approximately 29 percent had some earnings.
• The SNAP program cost approximately $60 billion in fiscal year 2010. The maximum benefit for a three-person household with no other income is $526 monthly. Most households do not receive the maximum, because they have other income.