Food benefits to increase for many Washington residents - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Food benefits to increase for many Washington residents

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Beginning April 1, many people currently receiving food assistance through Washington's food stamp program, Basic Food, will receive an increase in their monthly food benefits.

The Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), recently signed into law to help stimulate the national economy, provides additional aid to people receiving food benefits. Changes in Basic Food provided by the federal stimulus package include:

  • A 13.6 percent increase in maximum monthly benefit amounts for most households - meaning a four-person household could receive up to $668 instead of $588.
  • Suspending the three-month time limit on food assistance for childless, unemployed adults through September 2010.

Households currently receiving Basic Food will automatically receive the higher benefits. DSHS sent letters to all affected households informing them of the upcoming increase to their monthly benefits.

People receive their monthly Basic Food benefits electronically on a debit-like card to spend on food items. The additional grocery purchases generated by the extra benefits will increase economic activity in communities across the state. During the state's 2007 fiscal year, Washington's Basic Food Program generated more than $607 million in food purchases statewide. With recent program expansions, this figure is estimated to reach nearly $1 billion in 2009.

"Washington state has a history of weathering economic downturns fairly well, but we haven't been so lucky this time," said Troy Hutson, assistant secretary for the DSHS Economic Services Administration. "As unemployment continues to rise, more people needing help to make ends meet are coming to us. The food stamp program is the nation's first defense against hunger and these additional benefits provide much needed help to families and the economy as a whole."

People who would like more information about Basic Food can go to www.foodhelp.wa.gov. Households can quickly estimate what their monthly benefits would be and apply online. People can also call 1-877-514-FOOD (3663) for questions about the program.

Washington state is administering the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act investments with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability. Gregoire created a new Web site, www.recovery.wa.gov, so every Washingtonian can see where tax dollars are going and hold government accountable for the results.

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