More than 50 million people are on Medicaid, a program principally designed to help the poor, and nearly 10 million Americans receive unemployment benefits, USA Today said Monday in a report based on data from state officials.
"Virtually every Medicaid director in the country would say that their current enrollment is the highest on record," said Vernon Smith of Health Management Associates, a company that compiles data for the Kaiser Family Foundation.
More than 40 million people now receive food stamps, a jump of nearly 50 percent since the recession began, the report said. The unemployment rate in the United States remains above 9 percent.
Additionally, the number of people receiving welfare benefits has increased more than 18 percent, to more than 4.4 million, since the recession began, the newspaper said.
Critics of expanding government aid such as welfare and food stamps are concerned the numbers won't decline once the economy recovers, but anti-poverty experts said the benefits are justified.
"They're much harder to unwind in the long term," said the Cato Institute's Michael Tanner. The institute is a Washington think tank.
LaDonna Pavetti of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said the assistance is justified.
"We should be there to support people when the economy can't," she said.