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The number of Americans receiving food stamps rose slightly in December, according to data released on Thursday from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that showed an increase in monthly caseloads of 14,700 to 1.17 million. The numbers are similar to November’s and roughly where they were in December 2013 when the monthly caseload was about 1.05 million, according to the agency.
Despite the slight increase in the numbers, a significant chunk – 13.6 percent, or one out of every six Americans – remains out of work. The figures represent a 13 percent increase in the number of people receiving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which has been around since 1996, when food stamps first came into existence, said the USDA.
The food stamp program currently provides benefits to a base of food stamp recipients, such as those already in school, to cover expenses such as the rent of a home or utilities. In addition, the federal government makes a direct payment to states for costs associated with the expansion of food stamp eligibility to include individuals earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line, which is currently $23,850 for a family of four.
Since 1996, the program has grown significantly, making it more difficult for recipients to buy necessities like staples such as food and education, the USDA said. Some states, such as Arizona, have had to cut benefits, while lawmakers in other states have proposed restricting benefits and increasing the number of people enrolled.
But critics argue the SNAP program, as a whole, is inefficient, wasteful and ineffective at helping those seeking the very basic necessities of life like food and shelter. They blame the government for having spent trillions of dollars over the past decade just to provide a pittance of actual assistance.
The American Hunger Network, which advocates eliminating the government’s role in providing food assistance, blames the current system for “putting a high burden on low-income American families who do most of the household work,” the New York Times reported last year.
“Without an adequate supply of food, these families are unable to feed themselves from their limited resources,” AFN says in a 2013 report.
Other organizations that advocate on behalf of those on SNAP programs, including the National Employment Law Project and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
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