MEDIA RELEASE: Starting tomorrow, boost in food stamp benefits will help families, stimulate economy

MEDIA RELEASE: Starting tomorrow, boost in food stamp benefits will help families, stimulate economy
North Carolina will receive $145 million in benefits over the next six months, giving the economy an estimated boost of $270 million

RALEIGH (March 31, 2009) -- Tomorrow, families throughout North Carolina will see a boost in their food stamp benefits as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The act provides $4 billion in added benefits nationally over the next six months in order to increase consumer demand and stimulate the economy.

 The Agriculture Department estimates that every $1 in food stamps expands the economy by $1.84. Under the economic stimulus plan, North Carolina will get $145 million in food stamp benefits from April through September, creating an economic boost of an estimated $270 million.

"Food stamps are an ideal economic stimulus tool because they are always spent locally and have a widespread ripple effect," explained Louisa Warren, policy advocate for the North Carolina Justice Center, the state's leading progressive advocacy organization. "Families use food stamps at local grocery stores, and that money is passed on to employees, who spend it in other stores, and suppliers, who use it to pay their workers."

Thanks to the ARRA, families will see their food stamp benefits increase by 13.6 percent, or about $20 to $24 per person per month for most families. As of December 2008, 1,072,607 North Carolinians received food stamps -- a 16 percent increase over one year earlier.

"The increase in food stamp benefits will be an enormous help to North Carolina families who are struggling in this recession," Warren continued. "Many of them have had to cut back on other essentials like health care or have fallen behind in paying their bills so they can afford to buy food. It will also ease the strain on local food banks, most of which are having trouble meeting the increased demand."

The Food Stamp Program is designed to respond quickly and effectively to economic downturns. When the economy weakens, enrollment expands automatically to support the larger number of families and communities in need of assistance. During the first year of the recession (December 2007 to December 2008), food stamp enrollment nationally increased by more than 4 million people, or about 15 percent. Nearly nine in ten households that receive food stamps have incomes below the poverty line.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Jeff Shaw, communications director, NC Justice Center, 919.863.2402 (office), 503.551.3615 (mobile); Louisa Warren, policy analyst, NC Justice Center, 919.856.2183 (office), 919.961.3360 (mobile).