U.S. food-stamp use, which Republicans have cited as evidence of a failing economy, dropped 0.3 percent in February from the previous month, the government said.
About 46.326 million Americans received aid, down from 46.45 million in January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a statement. Participation was 4.8 percent higher than a year earlier. February was the second consecutive monthly drop.
“As we continue to create jobs and grow the economy, we expect to see the number of people enrolled in the program shrink,” Kevin Concannon, the USDA undersecretary who oversees food stamps, said in an interview last week.
Unemployment, the main driver of food-stamp enrollment, fell 0.1 percentage point to 8.2 percent in March after being unchanged in February. The jobless rate has held steady or declined every month since July, when the rate was 9.1 percent. The Labor Department will release the April report on May 4.
Spending on food stamps totaled $6.16 billion in February, 0.1 percent higher than the previous month and 4.6 percent more than a year earlier, as the average per-person benefit rose to $132.98 from $132.45. Texas had the most recipients, 4.04 million, even with a 2.4 percent decline in enrollment from the previous month, the biggest drop among the states. California had the second-most with 3.93 million, gaining 0.2 percent from January.
Food-stamp spending has more than doubled in four years to a record $75.7 billion in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, the USDA’s biggest expenditure. Funding over the next 10 years would be cut by more than $33 billion, about 4 percent, under a plan approved by the House Agriculture Committee on April 18.
The Senate Agriculture Committee last week approved a bill that would reduce spending for all nutrition program, including food stamps, by $4.02 billion over 10 years.