Obama Says “pointed in the Right Direction”
* * *
For the first time, more than 34 million Americans received food stamps, which help poor people buy groceries, government figures said on Thursday, a sign of the longest and one of the deepest recessions since the Great Depression
Enrollment surged by 2 percent to reach a record 34.4 million people, or one in nine Americans, in May, the latest month for which figures are available.
It was the sixth month in a row that enrollment set a record. Every state recorded a gain in participation from April. Florida had the largest increase at 4.2 percent.
Food stamp enrollment is highest during times of economic stress. The U.S. unemployment rate of 9.5 percent is the highest in 26 years.
Average benefit was $133.65 in May per person. The economic stimulus package enacted earlier this year included a temporary increase in food stamp benefits of $80 a month for a family of four. Full Story
* * *
Mezmure Dawit, 22, showed up at the food bank in Fairfax, Va., looking for help. He said he’d lost his job as a maintenance man at an apartment building last month and he needed food for his 14-year-old brother and 18-year-old sister.
He said their father had left them five months ago. “He just left. No money, nothing,” said Dawit, wearing crisp blue jeans and a striped shirt. “It’s been hard, man.”
As the national unemployment rate nears 10 percent, more and more people are turning to food banks for help keeping food on their plates. Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief charity, reports that demand at food banks across the United States is up 30 percent from last year.
Feeding America spokeswoman Maura Daly told the Huffington Post that as recently as May of last year, 90 percent of Feeding America’s clients cited food and fuel costs as their reasons for needing assistance. By December 90 percent were citing unemployment as the primary reason. Full Story
* * *
The first 12 months of the U.S. recession saw the economy shrink more than twice as much as previously estimated, reflecting even bigger declines in consumer spending and housing, revised figures showed.
The world’s largest economy contracted 1.9 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the last three months of 2008, compared with the 0.8 percent drop previously on the books, the Commerce Department said yesterday in Washington. Gross domestic product has shrunk 3.9 percent in the past year, the report said, indicating the worst slump since the Great Depression.
Updated statistics also showed that Americans earned more over the last 10 years and socked away a larger share of that cash in savings. The report signals the process of repairing tattered balance sheets following the biggest drop in household wealth on record may be further along than anticipated.
“The current downturn beginning in 2008 is more pronounced,” Steven Landefeld, director of the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, said in a press briefing this week. The revisions were in line with past experience in which initial figures tended to underestimate the severity of contractions during their early stages, he said.