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Dem. Congressman: Food Stamp Usage Up Because Real Unemployment Higher than 8.2 Percent

1:29 PM, Jul 19, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
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On C-SPAN's Washington Journal recently, a Democratic member of Congress, Rosa DeLauro, said that the increase of food stamps usage has to do with the "rough economy" and the fact that real unemployment is higher than 8.2 percent. The 8.2 percent number is the one offered by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, but accounts for only those looking actively looking for work. 

"Let's just say this," DeLauro said in response to a question about the rise in food stamps usage. "When we talk about the unemployment numbers, unemployment is 8.2%. That's not including the people who have stopped looking for jobs. So, we're looking at probably it's a higher number given that the number of people who have stopped looking for a job can't find a job, people who have been unemployed for a year or two years, who are unable to find jobs."

As the C-SPAN host indicated, approximately 45 million, or 15 percent of the American population, receives food stamps. "This is the food stamp program. About 45 million people receive an average of $134 per month. That's about 15% of the U.S. population. It's increased by 70% since 2007. And spending rose to $72 billion in 2011, up from $30 billion in 2007," said the C-SPAN host. 

Here's the transcript:

HOST: "Let's show some of our viewers some of the stats about the SNAP program. This is the food stamp program. About 45 million people receive an average of $134 per month. That's about 15% of the U.S. population. It's increased by 70% since 2007. And spending rose to $72 billion in 2011, up from $30 billion in 2007. Talk about that increase and the reasons for that increase. Does it all have to do with the rough economy we're seeing?"

DeLauro: "It mostly has to do with the rough economy that we are seeing. And really what is so particularly important about the food stamp program and the way it was designed, is that, when there are difficult times, the numbers rise, the number of people who access the program, who are using the program, that number rises. When the economy gets better, when we focus on putting people back to work, so that they can come off food stamps, we see the numbers drop. And we're already beginning to see a slight decrease in the numbers. But it is about getting our economy back on track, making sure people are going back to work. People today, many of them who are using food stamps, really never thought they would have to use a food stamp program. People who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, who are struggling every single day and week in order to make ends meet and quite frankly and literally to put food on the table for their families."

HOST: "Well let me ask you about that rise in folks who are using it. This is from Bloomberg Government. Food stamp rolls are expanding even as the unemployment level decreases. This is showing a decrease in unemployment levels from 2009 to 2011 and yet the number of people on food stamps is continuing to rise. Some folks are concerned that it has become too easy for folks to get access to food stamps."

DeLauro: "Let's just say this. When we talk about the unemployment numbers, unemployment is 8.2%. That's not including the people who have stopped looking for jobs. So, we're looking at probably it's a higher number given that the number of people who have stopped looking for a job can't find a job, people who have been unemployed for a year or two years, who are unable to find jobs."

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