While the lowest unemployment rate of President Barack Obama’s tenure dominated weekend economic news, a less-welcome statistic for the White House — a record number 0f food-stamp recipients — slipped by with barely a notice.
About 46.68 million Americans received food stamps in July, the government said in a report released late on Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend, a traditional time for dumping bad news. The report for July, the most recent month that data was available, showed participation up by 11,532 from June and 2.9 percent higher than a year earlier.
The number rose partly because of weather disasters in Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia, the USDA said. In essence, it was little changed from the previous month or even the recent past, since participation — more than one in seven Americans — has topped 46 million since September 2011.
Still, any jump in food-stamp rolls pushes a button with Republicans who argue hat the program breeds dependency and its growth shows both an unhealthy economy and wasteful spending.
“When the president took office, 32 million people on food stamps — 47 million on food stamps today,” Republican Mitt Romney said in last week’s presidential debate. “Going forward with the status quo is not going to cut it for the American people who are struggling.”
Monthly spending on food stamps in July reached $6.26 billion, also a record and 2.9 percent more than a year earlier.
The program’s cost more than doubled in four years to a record $75.7 billion in the 12 months ended Sept. 30, 2011, and is the USDA’s biggest annual expense.
A USDA spokesman was unable to provide comment on the timing of the report, when contacted on the federal Columbus Day holiday. The report normally comes early in the month, although there is no set date or time.