Tennessee Food Stamp Recipients Hit 19-Year Low

The federal government just released new data that shows the number of individuals receiving food stamps in Tennessee has dropped to its lowest since November 2003. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, just under 300,000 people were receiving food assistance in Tennessee in August of 2022. But the department updates its data on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program revealing new numbers.

After the 2009 recession, the number of people on Tennessee food stamps reached 1.35 million. Data also reveals that the peak in Tennessee for food stamps happened during the pandemic, with just under 1 million individuals receiving assistance in January 2021. In addition, the cost of the program has dropped significantly. In August 2022, the monthly fee was $117.88 per person, while the pandemic peak cost was $336.18 per person in August 2021. SNAP data for Tennessee was updated in October, with individuals receiving SNAP at just under 800,000 for the month.

In November of last year, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee did not renew the Covid state of emergency that was in effect for 20 months. Due to this change, additional emergency SNAP benefits ended Dec 31 of last year. In the previous month of pandemic food assistance relief, the cost per person was $256.66, which dropped to $166.82 in January 2022.

Tennessee’s unemployment rate peaked during the pandemic at 15.9% in April 2020 and dropped recently, this September, to 3.4%. Tennessee has lower participation in SNAP than other states are not seeing. For example, Illinois had 2 million people on food stamps in 2021 and 2022. In Illinois, the cost per person on Snap has increased by $30 from August 2021 to August 2022. Part of the reason Tennessee has been set apart is that Governor Lee signed a law in May 2022 that added a work requirement for those receiving food assistance.

Able-bodied people on food assistance must register for work, accept offers of employment, and cannot quit jobs to continue their benefits. College students on SNAP must also work at least 20 hours per week to remain eligible. The number of households in Tennessee receiving SNAP has dropped to the lowest level since 2003.

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