Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Over a million Americans officially became poor in two months

A homeless woman holding a card requesting money in New York City. (AFP Photo/Spencer Platt)

A homeless woman holding a card requesting money in New York City. (AFP Photo/Spencer Platt)
The number of Americans enrolled in the government’s food stamp program has risen to surpass the previous month’s record. With 607,544 new Americans becoming eligible for food stamps in September, the total has reached yet another all-time record.

The monthly increase in those enrolled in the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was the highest since May 2011 and topped off numbers that were already dire. In August 421 thousand more Americans became eligible for food stamps and together with September's numbers more than a million Americans officially became poor. In total, there were more than three times as many new food stamp recipients than new jobs.

The increase in food stamp eligible Americans came at a time when a campaigning Obama administration proudly reiterated the Bureau of Labor Statistics' report that private companies hired 201,000 new workers in August and the service sector added 185,000 workers.

But at an average cost of $134.29 per month per food stamp recipient, the federal government is increasingly spending more to tackle poverty.

“It is unclear just which atmospheric phenomenon will get the blame for this unprecedented surge in poverty, which comes at a time when the pre-election economic data euphoria was adamant that the US economy was on an escape velocity to utopia,” Tyler Durden wrote for Zero Hedge.

Rising from 47.1 million food stamp-eligible Americans in August to 47.7 million in September, it is possible that the US the number of recipients will reach 50 million before the end of the year.

When Hurricane Sandy swept away homes and businesses in early November, the damage left behind a large population of homeless Americans who are now unable to afford food. The devastation from the storm left New York City food stamp centers crowded with hungry families. While many Americans became eligible for the SNAP program, many more became eligible for a temporary emergency food stamp program – a one-time stipend that awarded SNAP money to low-income families who were financially injured by the hurricane.

In New Jersey, an estimated 100,000 people qualified for the program, the Statehouse Bureau reported. Those already enrolled in the program were eligible to receive a 25 percent increase in their monthly stipend.

On Nov. 5, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered $65 million in new food stamp funds to automatically be added to the SNAP cards of families who live in storm-devastated areas.
While the December 2012 SNAP data likely won’t be released until two months later, 2012 might set an alarming record and possibly bring the number of impoverished recipients to 50 million – a stark contrast to the 33.5 million who were enrolled in the program in 2009.