Spotlight Exclusives

Rise in Number of Americans Receiving Government Benefits

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New data from the Census Bureau offers a revealing look the hardships that confronted American families as the economy spiraled downward in 2008. According to the Census Bureau, between May and November 2008, the percentage of households participating in federal aid programs increased from 23.2 percent to 24.7 percent. The percentage of people receiving food stamps climbed from 7.6 percent to 8.8 percent, and the segment of those receiving benefits from Medicaid, which includes the State Children۪s Health Insurance Program, rose from 17.5 percent to 18.5 percent.

The figures are based on the 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation, which follows the same group of people over time, interviewing them once every four months.

The report also finds that in the third quarter of 2008, a monthly average of 28.4 million households (24 percent of Americans) received benefits from need-based federal aid programs, such as Medicaid, which had 21.1 million participants. Further, a monthly average of 11.5 million children participated in the free or reduced-price school meals program and 9.3 million Americans were enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps).

SNAP has been particularly responsive during the downturn, in stark contrast to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. According to the Center for Law and Social Policy, since the start of the recession in December 2007, the number of unemployed persons has increased by 96 percent and the number of SNAP families has increased by 37 percent; in contrast the number of families receiving TANF benefits has increased by only 5 percent. Indeed, the number of TANF families has actually declined by 1.82 percent since October 2006.

The Census Bureau۪s report shows that an increasing number of families are struggling to make ends meet. And as economists continue to debate whether or not the recession is officially over, there is no arguing one fact: The Great Recession left an indelible mark on the lives of millions of Americans.

Read the Census Bureau۪s report, Economic Characteristics of Households in the United States: Third Quarter 2008.

Posted by Helina


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