Illinois one of four states to see increase in food stamp participation
Illinois is one of only four states that saw an increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation this year, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service.
Illinois is behind only Alaska in terms of SNAP enrollment, with a 3.4 increase in participation in the last fiscal year. Illinois added 62,523 new SNAP members between May 2016 and May 2017, growing to 1,902,285 people from 1,838,917. Alaska witnessed an increase of 4.1 percent, Montana reported an uptick of 3 percent, and Kentucky saw a marginal increase of 0.8 percent.
Illinois paid out $247,093,323 in SNAP benefits as of May 2017.
Illinois’ increase comes at a time when the nation as a whole has shown a slight decrease in SNAP participation. As of Aug 4, there are 42,489,495 beneficiaries in the SNAP program, compared with 44,219,363 in fiscal year 2016. The latest number is the lowest since 2010, after which the nation saw a dramatic increase in SNAP participation, peaking in 2013 with 47 million participants.
Part of the decline in SNAP involvement is simple to understand: The economy has improved somewhat. The recession of 2008-09 hit the nation’s economy hard, and SNAP saw its numbers jump from 33 million in 2009 to 40 million in 2010. As more people find employment, they are less likely to be enrolled in SNAP.
However, Illinois’ economy hasn’t fared as well as the rest of the nation. It’s job growth is the worst in the region and only a little better than half of the national average. According to data from the Illinois Department of Employment Security, the state’s job growth was 0.9 percent from June 2016 to June 2017. Its neighbors, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin and Kentucky, saw job growth of at least 1.5 percent, also the national average. The Chicago area, the state’s most-populous center, managed a 1.2 percent increase, below the national average but much higher than the rest of Illinois.
Illinois’ annual economic growth is also among the worst in the nation, coming in at 0.4 percent for the entire decade from 2006 to 2016.
Illinois is also considered unfriendly to businesses, with its strict laws, regulations and high property taxes forcing many companies to flee to neighboring states. As businesses leave, so do jobs, leaving behind families struggling financially to feed their children.
The state had also been without a budget for the last two years, placing an immense stress on businesses, schools and government programs. A budget and spending plan was finally passed on July 7 but included a 32 percent tax hike on working families and businesses.