More area residents are receiving food stamps and disability benefits, following a nationwide trend.
According to the Georgia Department of Human Services, the number of people on food stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in Region 7 increased every six months from July 2007 to January of this year, climbing 65 percent during that time.
The 14 counties in the region are Burke, Columbia, Glascock, Hancock, Jefferson, Jenkins, Lincoln, McDuffie, Richmond, Screven, Taliaferro, Warren, Washington and Wilkes.
In July 2007, 66,809 people in the region received food stamps. The number had increased to 110,381 in January, said Ravae Graham, the deputy director of legislative affairs and communications for the Department of Human Services.
Nationwide, nearly 45 million people, one in seven U.S. residents, received SNAP benefits during an average month in fiscal year 2011, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Total federal spending on the program more than doubled between 2007 and 2011, reaching $78 billion. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that total federal spending on the program will peak at $82 billion in fiscal year 2013.
The number of people in Region 7 receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration has also increased. As of December 2010, the latest data available, 8,575 people in Richmond County received disability benefits, up from 6,840 in December 2009, an increase of 25 percent.
In Columbia County, 2,820 people received disability benefits in 2010, compared with 2,110 in 2009, an increase of 34 percent. The number of recipients in McDuffie, Burke, Aiken and Edgefield counties increased.
“Nationally, we have seen an increase in initial disability claims of about 25 percent during the economic downturn,” said Frank Viera, the deputy regional communications director for the Social Security Administration’s Atlanta Public Affairs Office.
As of December 2010, 10,184,157 people nationwide, including 307,907 in Georgia and 192,113 in South Carolina, were receiving disability benefits, Viera said.
Nationally, the Social Security Administration has also seen an increase in the number of disability applications filed because of the aging of baby boomers and the economic downturn, he said.
County numbers are not available for the number of applications for disability benefits, but 62,283 people in Georgia have applied in 2012 to date. In South Carolina, 32,818 people have applied to date, Viera said.