Food stamp need rising in Moffat County | CraigDailyPress.com

Food stamp need rising in Moffat County

Social Services expects to allocate $2.47 million by year’s end

Brian Smith

Marie Peer, Moffat County Department of Social Services director, has seen the number of food stamp cases her department handles consistently increase since 2008.

Seeing more residents need help putting food on the table can be tough sometimes, she said.

But, "you don't have time for heartbreaking," she said.

"What you are really trying to do is help the person sitting in front of you," she said. "In terms of, 'This is going to be a temporary thing.'

"People are going to get through this. People are going to be doing better, and there are going to be jobs coming up."

Peer contends the food stamp program is a "flagship program" that provides a good indication of overall economic health.

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"If food stamps start going down, that is one of the indicators that the economy is doing better," she said.

Peer said the economy is "alarming" and the economic struggles many are having can be seen in the rise of food stamp cases, funding and applications to social services.

In June, social services reported it handled 658 food stamp cases, which is 141 more cases from June 2009. The number of food stamp cases has increased each month from 413 cases in January last year.

The program has allocated $1.23 million to residents so far in 2010, and Peer said the department is projecting to allocate $2.47 million by the end of the year.

In 2009, the department allocated $1.81 million in food stamps and $862,706 in 2008, Peer said.

Food stamp eligibility is based on several factors, including income, household size, and living expenses such as rent and utilities, Peer said.

Food stamp funding for counties is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Perhaps the most interesting recent development, Peer said, is the number of applications being received and how many people are not eligible for the program.

"We are finding more people not eligible more than we ever have had in the past, which means people are applying and looking at all the different possibilities, which is a good thing," Peer said.

In July, 120 new food stamp applications were filed, which is down from 134 applications in June, Peer said.

Peer hopes the decrease means the economy is doing better.

But, she said she is pleased that people are applying for the program, even though they might not be eligible.

"It is hard, I think, for people to apply for benefits," she said. "Some people see it as, 'I am accepting defeat,' but it really is sort of a bridge.

"There are times that we all need help in one way or the other, and to look at it in terms of, 'This is a temporary thing.'"

But, residents' attitudes about applying for foods stamps may be changing, Peer said.

"I think people are getting more comfortable with the fact that there are some things you have to do to get by," she said.

Peer noted, however, that while the number of people seeking and receiving assistance from the food stamp program has been increasing, residents' negativity has not taken the same path, she said.

"For the most part, people have a positive attitude," she said. "They're looking for jobs. Saying, 'What am I going to do? How am I going to get out of this and how can I make more progress?'"

Story at a glance:

• Moffat County Department of Social Services has allocated $1.23 million in food stamp funding so far this year.

• The department is projecting to allocate $2.47 million to Moffat County residents for food stamps by the end of the year.

• In June, social services handled 658 food stamp cases, 141 more cases from June 2009.

• In July, 120 new food stamp applications were filed, which is down from 134 applications in June, and a recent high of 156 applications in April.

• To learn whether you are eligible for food stamps, visit peak.state.co.us/selfservice.

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