Politico, analyzing data from the Food and Nutrition Service in the Department of Agriculture, reported the number had risen to 980,000 last year from 290,000 in 2008, more than tripling. The percentage of food stamp recipients with relatively high incomes doubled from 2.3 percent in 2008 to 4.7 percent in 2011, but far more people are enrolled in the program after three years of a struggling economy.
Republicans blamed President Obama during the campaign for the increase. But Politico suggests a major reason is that governors relaxed the rules to help state residents through hard times without further straining their own budgets.
The dollar cost of benefits to those with incomes above the 130 percent of poverty level has risen even more from $171 million in 2008 to about $1 billion in 2011, Politico said.
The food stamp program will be an issue as Congress and the president deal with deficit reduction and in debates on a new agriculture bill, Politico said. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, has proposed setting eligibility at 135 percent of the poverty level.
Peterson also wants to eliminate a minimum $16 in monthly food stamps paid to those who do not qualify for more aid. He argues that $16 a month is not going to be of any great help to anyone while administering the tiny payouts adds enormously to government expenses.