Welfare rolls have increased about 12% over last year in Tennessee, but the number of people using food stamps has jumped 22% from May of 2008.
The increasing unemployment figures are to blame for the rise in individuals seeking welfare and the now half-a-million families using food stamps. Eligibility requirements are lower for food stamps, which is why so many more families use them
Paul Lefkowitz is with the Department of Human Services. He says nearly 60-thousand families are on the welfare program, Families First. While the number is rising, families continually drop off the program because of its 5-year lifetime cap. Lefkowitz says the number of families hitting their max used to be about 12 a month.
“Since about September of last year, we’ve averaged more like 30 to 35 families per month leave Families First due to the 60 month time limit.”
Lefkowitz says DHS expects the number of families hitting the max to increase. The department also anticipates the number of people applying for welfare to keep rising as people use up their unemployment benefits.