Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Vilsack: Food Stamps Are An Economic Stimulus

Agriculture Secretary says record level of SNAP benefit usage creates jobs, gives US economy multi-billion dollar monthly boost... 
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stayed on President Obama's rural jobs message during an interview from Dubuque, Iowa, saying that SNAP benefits, also known as Food Stamps, are good for US employment rates. Food Stamp usage has gone up for thirty straight months, and USDA recorded the highest level of use in its history in May, with close to 46 million people--or 1 in 7 citizens--using the program. Food Stamps, Vilsack told MSNBC's Morning Joe, should be regarded as "an economic stimulus" that creates and saves jobs. (Above: Vilsack speaking today at the President's Rural Economic Forum in Peosta, Iowa)

"Every dollar of SNAP benefits generates $1.84 in the economy in terms of economic activity," Vilsack said. "If people are able to buy a little more in the grocery store, someone has to stock it, package it, shelve it, process it, ship it. All of those are jobs. It's the most direct stimulus you can get in the economy during these tough times."

The Secretary isn't kidding about economic stimulus: SNAP spending in May was over $6 billion, so if Vilsack's theory is correct, that's an added $11 billion in economic activity.

Vilsack had more observations about Food Stamps: The number of Americans using the SNAP program isn't necessarily a reflection of the desperate straits many citizens find themselves in, Vilsack said.

"The reason why these number have gone up is that we've done a pretty good job of working with states that had done a poor job in the past in getting the word out about this program," Vilsack said. "We're now working with them to make sure that people who are eligible get the benefits."

Over the past year, USDA has also put in place measures to try to eliminate Food Stamp fraud.

*USDA photo by Lance Cheung

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