Tuesday, December 22, 2009

California's Ventura County sees 50% increase in food stamp use

Another story about how bad things became in California during the recession. A huge surge in food stamp use is detected in the affluent towns of Thousand Parks and Simi Valley. California's Ventura County now has 52,000 in the food stamp program, that translates to a 50% increase over the past two years.

From the Ventura County Star, writer Kathleen Wilson crunches the numbers and talks to human service workers.

Officials say the 52,000 people in the program are the highest number since the mid-1990s, and perhaps ever. They tie the surge partly to relaxed rules, expanded marketing and a lessening of the stigma associated with food stamps, but mainly to the lingering impact of the recession.

“The recent growth is certainly based on the economy,” said Curtis Updike, deputy director in the county Human Services Agency. “Anecdotally, we have seen people coming in that never thought they would be using our system.”

The increase came in all of the county’s 10 cities as county unemployment more than doubled from 5.2 percent in September 2007 to 11.1 percent in September 2009.

Locally, the cities on the western side of the Conejo Grade — chiefly Ventura and Oxnard — account for the lion’s share of the 22,000 households drawing benefits. But while the caseload has been growing by close to 50 percent in those two cities, it’s doubled in Simi Valley and come close to that in Thousand Oaks.

Marcia Hoffstadt, who interviews applicants from the east county, said many of them are in shock.

“You can see it in their faces,” the intake worker said Monday. “It’s really rough right now.”

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