July 7 (Bloomberg) — A record 33.8 million people received food stamps in April, up 20 percent from a year earlier, as unemployment surged toward a 26-year high, government figures show. Spending also jumped, as the average benefit rose.
It was the fifth straight month of record participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and up 1.8 percent from the prior month. Total spending was $4.5 billion, up 19 percent from the previous all-time high reached in March, the USDA said.
The government is boosting food aid in response to a jobless rate that rose to 9.5 percent in June from 9.4 percent in May. An additional $20 billion over five years was authorized for nutrition assistance in the $787 billion stimulus bill Congress passed in February.
Utah had the biggest increase in the number of recipients from a year earlier, 46 percent, while South Dakota had the steepest jump from March, 6.4 percent.
Texas was the only state where the number of participants declined from the previous month. It still had the most recipients, 2.92 million, followed by California with 2.7 million and New York with 2.34 million. The average monthly benefit for an individual rose 17 percent from March to $133.28.
An average of about 35 million people are expected to be receiving food stamps each month in the year that begins Oct. 1, according to the budget President Barack Obama sent to Congress in May.
To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Bjerga in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated: July 7, 2009 13:32 EDT
By Alan Bjerga