Just over 3 million Californians received food stamp benefits in October 2009, according to new data from the Department of Social Services. Enrollment in the program jumped by about 905,000 (43.0 percent) from October 2007, a period when California was sliding into a deep recession. However, as we pointed out in our recent report, California historically has had a low participation rate in the Food Stamp Program, and the state still has many policies in place that impede access. These policies are a key reason why nearly 2.2 million eligible Californians did not receive food stamp benefits as recently as 2007.
Enrolling more eligible Californians in the Food Stamp Program is a win-win scenario: Benefits, which are 100 percent federally funded, help struggling families as well as struggling local economies. According to our estimates, enrolling 100,000 more eligible Californians would bring roughly $177 million in additional food stamp benefits to California each year. Enrolling 10 times that number – 1 million eligible Californians – would bring about $1.8 billion in federally funded food stamp benefits to the state each year. This infusion of federal funding would provide a significant boost to local economies: Economists estimate that every dollar spent on food stamp benefits increases economic activity by $1.73.
— Scott Graves