Record numbers of Americans are now using the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food stamp program, which was renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the economic recovery bill.
Last month 31.8 million Americans received food stamps, an increase of 700,000 people, according to figures released by SNAP on Thursday. The program is projected to cost at least $51 billion in the fiscal year ending September 30, up $10 billion from fiscal year 2008.
The families on the program will also receive a temporary boost in their food stamp benefits starting in April, as legislated under the stimulus law.
State assistance agencies will decide how to address benefit changes and notify beneficiaries of their increased allotment of food stamps, said SNAP's Arthur Foley. The higher allotment levels established by the law become a new floor and will not decrease after September 30, 2009.
Food stamps are usually adjusted at the end of each fiscal year, but will not automatically occur until the value exceeds the April 1, 2009 amounts. This is not likely to occur this year, meaning households probably won't see the usual adjustment this October.
"This may lead to some confusion among SNAP households, particularly longer term SNAP recipients who are accustomed to annual increases each October," Foley said.