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Oh, SNAP! Food stamp reliance in the United States may become the 'new normal'

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 29th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is more than a fact of life for many American families. U.S. Researchers say that enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has more than doubled in the past decade even during times of economic growth.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - With SNAP enrollment doubling to 47 million, it's been learned that the number of Americans receiving food stamps increased - even when the economy was growing. 

The SNAP case load, during the 2003-07 expansion rose 24 percent, the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College says. CRC economists Matt Rutledge and April Yanyuan Wu says that one reason is a change in the longstanding correlation between poverty and the unemployment rate.

In olden times, poverty used to fall in tandem with the jobless rate, reducing the need for food stamps. However, researchers found poverty did not decline as the economy grew in the mid-2000s. In the recovery following the "Great Recession," people receiving food stamps kept rising.

A stronger labor market would reduce the need for food stamps, economists theorized. This new trend suggests rising employment might no longer be enough.

Feeding America, a non-profit group says that 76 percent of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83 percent of all SNAP benefits, which are limited to households with gross income of no more than 130 percent of the federal poverty guideline.

The majority of SNAP households have income well below the maximum. Eighty-three percent have gross income at or below 100 percent of the poverty guideline, $19,530 for a family of three in 2013. These households receive about 91 percent of all benefits, Feeding America said.

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