A new report on the changing nature of food stamp benefits and recipients reveals the incredibly slow economic recovery that has taken place since the recession began in the United States in 2008. According to Moyers & Company, working people now have a higher need for food stamps than children and the elderly.
The National Employment Law Project recently released a study claiming low-wage jobs have increased by 8.7 percent since 2001, while mid-wage jobs have decreased by 7.3 percent. This has led to an increased disparity between wealthy individuals and low-income individuals. In turn, this disparity has led to an increased need for food stamps for working-age individuals that in prior years would otherwise be considered part of the middle class.
According to the AP, “food stamp participation since 1980 has grown the fastest among workers with some college training,” evidence of the benefit program extending into the middle class. While food stamp benefits were typically allotted to low-income individuals or individuals without any income at all such as children and the elderly, the government program is now seeing an increased demand across the board.
University of Wisconsin-Madison economics professor Timothy Smeeding explained to the AP’s Hope Yen that a decrease in unemployment does not necessarily correlate with lower food stamp enrollment, especially given the current state of the U.S. job market.
“A low-wage job supplemented with food stamps is becoming more common for the working poor. Many of the U.S. jobs now being created are low- or minimum-wage — part-time or in areas such as retail or fast food — which means food stamp use will stay high for some time, even after unemployment improves,” Smeeding said.
Despite the increased need for food stamps, many lawmakers believe that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is leading to unnecessary spending on behalf of the federal government. Democrats and Republicans in Congress recently reached a deal on the controversial farm bill renewal that would cut about $8 billion from SNAP benefits over the next ten years.