Economy leads more Polk residents to seek food assistance

Published 9:08 pm Monday, November 16, 2009

A bad economy has resulted in over 400 more Polk residents seeking assistance for food.

Requests for food stamps and Medicaid for families and children have risen substantially in the last year, according to reports from the Polk County Department of Social Services (DSS).

In October of 2008, there were 693 food stamp cases in Polk County and currently there are 858, an increase of 165 cases in a year, according to DSS.

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In the calendar year of 2008 there were 1,553 people who sought food stamp assistance and so far in 2009, there have been 1,968 people and that number is still growing, according to DSS Director Sue Rhodes.

Rhodes said people often go on and off food stamps, but there has been a constant increase in cases and in applications over the past year.

The increase in food stamps alone brought a new full-time employee to DSS this year. In July, Polk County used federal stimulus funding to gain a third employee devoted strictly to food stamps.

Rhodes says the current trend is the most food stamp cases shes seen in her 31 years with DSS.

Medicaid has also seen an increase since last year for families and children, mostly in children aid. Polk County currently has 1,060 cases and a year ago had 939 cases.

Rhodes says most people when approved for food stamps are approved for six months or more depending on the circumstances and the amount given per month depends on an individual’s or familys income.

In order to qualify for food stamps a person cannot have $2,000 or more in reserves and has to have an income at no more than 130 percent of the poverty level. People over the age of 60 cannot have more than $3,000 in reserves and be at or below 130 percent of the poverty level.

The poverty level is an annual income of $14,570 for a family of two, $18,310 for a family of three and $22,050 for a family of four. For each additional family member, the poverty level increases by $3,740.