Here’s another of those inconvenient milestones of the Bloomberg Years: The Independent Budget Office says that the city has hit an all-time high in the number of New Yorkers receiving food stamps – a record 1.6 million.
The news comes a week after the Coalition for the Homeless announced that the current number of homeless families has also broken all previous records. Ditto for food stamp recipients: “January 2008 through August 2009 food stamp enrollment increased by 354,000 persons, expanding the caseload by nearly 30 percent,” writes Paul Lopatto on the IBO web site, adding: “The pace of growth over the last year and a half has been unmatched since the early years of the program in the 1970s.”
There’s a part of this uptick, notes the IBO, that’s the result of a joint city/City Council initiative last year to get eligible families signed up for the program, which is paid for by the feds. Council Speaker Chris Quinn said in August that this push netted some 51,000 new recipients. Red tape was also pared, and hours at intake offices increased.
But it’s the lousy economy that’s driving the big hike in numbers, says the IBO: “While these outreach efforts and initiatives to ease the application process helped boost enrollment, the extensive job losses and resultant income decreases experienced by large numbers of New Yorkers over the last year have significantly increased the pool of people who are eligible for assistance.”
The food stamp issue isn’t one that Bloomberg likes to talk about a lot because these numbers would be even higher if he hadn’t stubbornly continued a Giuliani-era policy of refusing to accept a federal waiver to extend food stamps to the able-bodied unemployed (46 other states have done so, including the forward-looking leaders of Mississippi).
Why does he do it? Take a gander at today’s Post editorial and you’ll understand: It’s one of those conservative litmus tests he’s got to pass to stay in the good graces of certain people. Bloomberg’s refusal to accept the waiver “outraged the hunger lobby,” write the ditto-heads, “but again, it was the right thing to do.”
Image (cc) Clementine Gallot.