Report Ranks Jacksonville High for Food Stamp Participation | News

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Report Ranks Jacksonville High for Food Stamp Participation
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A new report tracking access to SNAP/Food Stamps in 22 large urban areas finds high rates of participation among eligible low-income people in two Florida cities, according to Florida Impact. In 2008, SNAP/Food Stamps reached 86 percent of eligible people in Jacksonville (Duval County), and 91 percent in Miami (Miami-Dade).

The report, SNAP Access in Urban America: A City-by-City Snapshot by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), examines SNAP/Food Stamps and hunger in 22 of America’s largest urban areas. FRAC estimates that only 76 percent of eligible people in the 22 cities and urban counties participated in the program in December 2008, with rates ranging from a high of 98 percent in Washington, D.C. to a low of 40 percent in San Diego, California.

“We know that the current economy accounts in part for the increased number of households eligible for SNAP,” says Debra Susie, executive director of Florida Impact. “But the fact that Jacksonville and Miami are reaching so many of these households is a testament to the great work DCF is doing with increasing access and awareness about the program.”

Other findings from the report include:

  • Among the cities profiled in the report, Miami has the third highest child poverty rate (34 percent).
  • Jacksonville has more than doubled its enrollment in SNAP/Food Stamps since 2005, making it second on the list for increased percentage over the past five years.
  • Despite high participation, both cities left unclaimed benefits on the table. Miami missed out on an estimated $18.9 million, and Jacksonville missed out on $8.3 million.

FRAC’s report identifies several strategies that can connect eligible people with benefits. Florida has adopted many of these and has been a national model, implementing a system in which households apply for SNAP on the Internet and conducting their follow-up interviews by phone. Such measures have also saved the state $83 million over the years.  In fact, the Florida Department of Children and Families has won federal awards totaling $24.1 million over the last three years. 

Despite this stellar performance, DCF lacks sufficient funding to update technology and add staff necessary to keep up with the ever growing need.  Even when the economy picks back up, many of the Floridians with lower paying jobs in industries like tourism and agriculture may well still be eligible for SNAP/Food Stamps to help provide the nutrition their families need. Maximizing SNAP among eligible Floridians will also contribute to the return of more vibrant Florida economy. “High participation in SNAP/Food Stamps reaps countless benefits for the state by helping struggling families and bringing in millions to jumpstart the local economy,” says Susie. Every $1 in SNAP benefits generates $1.73 in local economic activity. “By comparison, each $1 spent in permanent tax cuts is said to generate $0.30 to $0.48 in economic activity.” 

The full SNAP analysis report is available online at www.frac.org.

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