Citizen Wealth Stimulus Program: Food Stamps

Citizen Wealth Ideas and Issues

food stampsNew Orleans Here’s a shocker.  The one piece of the stimulus package that everyone seems to agree is working is Obama bump in the food stamp program.  Furthermore, the success is such that there is real discussion now in Congress about giving the program another bump.  Now we’re talking about citizen wealth meaning real income security.

An article in the Wall Street Journal on 7/7/09 by Roger Thurow quoted one source that “estimated that food-stamp spending will increase between $10 billion and $12 billion this year from $34.6 billion in 2008.”  That would mean a real increase of more than 30% to the nation’s poorest working families, and that’s a big WOW!

Furthermore, business are even getting (ok, yes, just as I argued in Citizen Wealth!),

“When we look at the acceptance of food stamps, it becomes part of a larger and longer strategy to us,” says Ken Smith, chief financial officer of Family Dollar Stores Inc., a Charlotte, N.C., chain with 6,600 outlets in 44 states. A recent customer survey estimated that about 20% of Family Dollar customers receive food stamps.

In Chicago, where the number of households relying on food stamps is up 15% over a year ago, according to the Chicago Community Trust, food-stamp receipts are cushioning the blows of the recession. Without the food-stamp increases, “we would have been hurting more,” says Joe Garcia, controller at Moo & Oink Inc., a meat retailer with four stores in the Chicago area.

There were even favorable comments about the much maligned program echoing other arguments that many of us have made for decades about expanding the program and breaking down its barriers.

Money from the program — officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — percolates quickly through the economy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture calculates that for every $5 of food-stamp spending, there is $9.20 of total economic activity, as grocers and farmers pay their employees and suppliers, who in turn shop and pay their bills.

While other stimulus money has been slow to circulate, the food-stamp boost is almost immediate, with 80% of the benefits being redeemed within two weeks of receipt and 97% within a month, the USDA says.

Within this context it should not be a surprise that even the tightest fisted and conservative Congressmen are starting to hear what both farmers and business people are saying in their district, and that’s “give us more food stamps!”  I might wish they were finally doing the right thing for the right reason as they gear up for the current debate, but that’s probably too much to hope for.

At least for a change they are doing the right thing!