Only half of eligible California residents received food stamps in 2008, compared with a national average of 66% of eligible residents, according to a new federal report, the Los Angeles Times' "L.A. Now" reports.
Although California's participation rate rose two percentage points from 2007, the state's 2008 rate was still the second-lowest rate in the nation. The only state with a lower participation rate was Wyoming, where 46% of eligible residents were receiving food stamps.
The report was prepared by Mathematica Policy Research for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Researchers used U.S. Census surveys to determine how many residents were eligible for the program.
Call for Easing Program Requirements
USDA officials have urged California to simplify its enrollment requirements for the food stamp program.
California is the only state that requires most food stamp beneficiaries to report their income every three months. Most other states require such reports twice annually. In addition, California is one of a handful of states that requires food stamp beneficiaries to be fingerprinted (Zavis, "L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 2/2).
Assembly member Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar) has introduced a bill (AB 6) that would end the fingerprint requirement and reduce income reporting. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) vetoed similar legislation, but Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has not indicated whether he would support changes to the food stamp program (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 2/2).
State Officials Respond
State officials said they would like the report to count beneficiaries of Supplemental Security Income as food stamp beneficiaries, which could improve the state's participation rate. In 1974, California increased its matching grant for the program by $10 monthly in place of administering food stamps for SSI beneficiaries.
The authors of the report said they adjusted the data to reflect that California's 1.2 million SSI beneficiaries are not eligible to receive food stamps.
In addition, Maricela Rodriguez -- spokesperson for the California Department of Social Services -- said data in the report is three years old and "doesn't reflect the impact of some of the recent program changes" that were made to increase access to benefits.
According to the most recent state data available, more than 3.5 million Californians received food stamps in October 2010, nearly 46% more than in October 2008. However, the number of eligible residents also has increased, according to "L.A. Now." ("L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 2/2).