The number of Colorado residents receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program — formerly known as food stamps — has more than doubled since 2007.
It was in December that year that the Great Recession was formally recognized. It ended in June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, but use of SNAP continues to rise.
Each month during 2013, an average of 508,200 state residents qualified for SNAP dollars, according to an I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS review of data from Colorado Department of Human Services.
This year the state predicts that an additional 44,000 Coloradans will sign up to receive help putting food on the table.
The average SNAP benefit for a statistical household of 2.5 people is $300 per month, or $10 a day to buy food. The benefits were reduced in November when the temporary boost provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 expired.
In recent years the SNAP program has become caught up in political infighting. House Republicans want to cut benefits in the name of reducing government spending, while Senate Democrats argue that the program is important in the fight against hunger.
In Colorado about 40 percent of “working age” SNAP users, those 16 to 65, were employed as of June 2013.
In some cases food banks have stepped in to assist those in need.
“We don’t care if they get food stamps, a lot of people just need help” said Vic Ocana, executive director of Compassion Food Banks. Ocana said Compassion’s nine locations in Colorado all report growing lines for food distribution since last fall.
“We try to give them enough food for the month, but people are more anxious for help now,” he said.
State officials are skeptical that SNAP participation rates will return to ‘07 levels any time soon.
“Once the economy gets better I’m not expecting a huge shift back,” Sue McGinn, director of the state’s food and energy division said. “We’re just seeing the stabilization of the program.”