Thursday, March 12, 2009

Florida Must Back Food Stamp Program


By Debra Susie, Ted Granger and David Reaney

The growing economic downturn is taking its toll on Americans nationwide. Here in Florida, the number of people needing assistance to meet basic living needs continues to rise in staggering numbers.

Over the last year, Florida added more than 408,835 new recipients to its food stamp rolls -- a 29 percent increase. Given the recession, that kind of growth is not unique to our state, but by the year’s end, Florida led the nation for its dramatic rate of growth in food stamp clients. The increase also represented the largest jump in the state's history, surpassing even the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew.

As one would expect, there are other numbers on the rise, too. Call volume at Florida’s food stamp call centers was over 3 million for the month of October 2008 -- a 40 percent increase over the previous year. Many of these callers are first-time applicants who have lost their jobs during this recession. Even with economic recovery expected to begin in 2010, the Congressional Budget Office projects higher unemployment rates for the next few years, and Florida’s unemployment rate is already higher than the national average.

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