There are more people who receive food stamps in the state of Oregon than the number of all the students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade throughout the state’s public schools.
In fact, the numbers show that nearly 150,000 more Oregonians are receiving government assistance via food stamps than public K-12 education.
“Oregon currently has 725,307 people enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the program in charge of doling out food stamps, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics on food stamp enrollment,” Breitbart reported. “According to the Oregon Department of Education, enrollment in the state’s K-12 public schools for the 2016-2017 school year totaled 578,947.”
Not a good place to lead …
When compared to the other 49 states, Oregon ranks as having the highest percentage of food stamp recipients in the nation.
“Nearly 20 percent of Oregonians used food stamps or the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program in 2013, the highest in the nation, according to a new Census Bureau report, [which] comes out to 301,792 people,” the Seattle Times reported. “By comparison, 14.8 percent of Washington residents, or 390,879, were enrolled in SNAP – this despite the economic boom in the Seattle area. In Alaska, recipients totaled 9.8 percent and Idaho 13 percent.”
Since 2000, the number of food stamp recipients from coast to coast more than doubled.
“The national average was 13.5 percent, with the largest concentration of major recipients in the South (Texas households on food stamps almost tripled compared with 2000),” the Times’ Jon Talton noted. “Food-stamp use rose dramatically nationwide during the Great Recession and has only slowly declined. But the increase in need is starkly different from 2000. Nationally, 6.2 percent were enrolled that year.”
Even though the percentage of recipients increased since the turn of the century, the total number has drastically dropped since President Donald Trump moved into the White House – but this is not the case for Oregon.
“Despite the fact that food stamp enrollment in the U.S. is at historic lows and nearly 1.5 million people dropped off of the food stamp rolls since President Trump took office, Oregon is one of the few states where enrollment in SNAP increased over the past year,” Breitbart reported. “According to the USDA data, Oregon is one of four states where food stamp enrollment has increased from 2016-2017. The other three states are Alaska, Kentucky, and Montana.”
The Beaver State’s dependence on the government is still increasing, even though most of the rest of the nation – excluding Alaska – is becoming more independent when it comes to feeding itself.
“Oregon was second only to Alaska in terms of having the most significant increase in SNAP users over the past year, with a 1.8 percent increase in SNAP enrollment,” Breitbart’s Katherine Rodriguez divulged. “Alaska had a 14 percent increase over the same amount of time.”
Cycle of increasing dependence
Oregon did not just recently receive its title as the king of food stamps, and a number of reasons can help explain why the scenic Pacific Coast state keeps on adding to its number of SNAP users.
“Oregon has a history of being the number one state for food stamp usage in recent years,” Rodriguez pointed out. “One reason is increased efforts by state officials to boost SNAP enrollment over the past 17 years. In the late 1990s, state lawmakers rammed through legislation that sought to make more people eligible for benefits and simplify the application process. The participation rate soared from 66 percent in 1997 to nearly 100 percent in 2015. Another plausible theory for the increase is that the state never recovered from the Great Recession, with sectors such as manufacturing and timber being the hardest hit.”
Another reason ventured as to why Oregon has so many recipients of food stamps was provided by SNAP Director Belit Burke in 2015, who noted that even though more heads of households were working, they were not landing fulltime jobs. This is reflected in the following statistic:
“About 43 percent of Oregon's SNAP caseload is employed – far above the national average of 31 percent,” Governing.com’s J.B. Wogan revealed at the time. “This is a national trend, too. SNAP households that also have some earnings grew by more than a third since welfare reform in the mid-1990s.”
James Ziliak, who is a poverty researcher at the University of Kentucky, announced why he thought Oregon remains in an unhealthy cycle of dependence.
"SNAP has evolved into a work supplement for ... near-poor households,” Ziliak warned a U.S. House subcommittee on nutrition earlier that year, according to Governing.com.
It is believed that many are still receiving free government payouts as prices and the cost of living continue to soar..
“That may explain why so many households have remained on SNAP – even as unemployment has gone down,” Wogan offered. “After adjusting for inflation, wages have stagnated for more than a decade, leading workers to seek more government aid to get by.”
But regardless of all the explanations and remedies for Oregon’s food stamp crisis, Burke said there was just one way for Oregonians to truly get back on their feet.
"The only way we're going to lower our caseload is to help folks get better paying jobs," Burke asserted.
However, many hope that the disastrous $15 per hour minimum wage that has been the talk of the town in Seattle will not migrate south to Oregon and cause more problems than it solves.