Fewer Arizonans Applying For Food Stamps Since End Of Recession

By Steve Shadley
Published: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 5:05am
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Requests for food stamp assistance in Arizona have fallen slightly since fall of 2012. But it’s too early to say if that indicates the state’s economy is making a strong recovery from the recession.

Food stamp use was very high nationally during the economic downturn. But, the State Department of Economic Security said Arizona applications for food stamps under a program known as SNAP decreased over an 18-month period after the official end of the recession. 

“We did find that there was a slightly more than 7 percent decrease from October 2012 to May of 2014,” said Tasya Peterson, a spokeswoman with DES.

She said about 1 million people in Arizona are currently enrolled in SNAP, but it’s not exactly clear why the state has seen a 7 percent drop in food-stamp applications.

"The decline could be attributed to the rebound from the Great Recession, perhaps the decline in the unemployment rate and the increase in available jobs, but we can’t say for sure what the decline is due to we could only speculate,” Peterson said.

Aruna Murthy researches employment trends with the Arizona Department of Administration. She said falling food-stamp enrollment is a positive sign the state’s economy is turning around. But she said job creation remains stagnant statewide with less than 2 percent growth so far this year.

“I would expect that typically when you take off every year we have to increase to some magnitude and for three years if you are seeing a 2 percent growth it certainly still is a flat trend,” Murthy said.

Arizona families that depend on an annual income of $23,000 or less may qualify for food assistance. While applications for SNAP are decreasing in the state, local experts said there’s always a chance any speed bump on the road to economic recovery could easily put more people on the welfare rolls. 

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