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Approximately one in seven Americans are applying for food stamps, but according to new government ads and public service announcements, more individuals need to sign up for the safety net program. Since many people don’t understand requirements of this government assistance option, nearly a quarter of eligible individuals aren’t signing up.
Seniors and Working Poor Not Applying for Food Stamps
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is available to Americans who meet certain eligibility criteria, but despite a near-record 46.4 million people receiving this form of government assistance, more eligible people should be applying for food stamps, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
USDA records show that more than one in four Americans are still eligible for SNAP assistance, yet they do not participate in the program.
The people who most overlook the program are the underserved elderly, working poor, the unemployed and legal immigrants, the USDA says. In order to get more people to sign up for the program, the government has taken to radio airways.
USDA Runs Ads to Educate on Government Assistance
To get more eligible Americans signed up with SNAP, the USDA started running radio ads about four months ago. The department is reportedly spending between $2.5 million and $3 million on paid spots, while utilizing free public service announcements about government assistance to reach its target audience.
Currently, the campaign can be heard in California, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and the New York metro area. The ads are expected to run through June 30.
As the SNAP program is being promoted, lawmakers are debating whether less should be spent on the program. In the 2011 fiscal year, the government spent $75 billion on food stamps, up from $34.6 billion at the end of the fiscal year of 2008, according to the USDA.
With the deficit for fiscal-year 2012 projected to top $1 trillion for the fourth year in a row, some lawmakers believe it’s best to reduce funding for this government assistance, or turn it into a block grant program, which would allow regional governments to manage the funds.