While politicians talk of an economic recovery, the use of Food Stamps in the Tampa Bay area has reached a new high, with about a half million people taking advantage of federal food compensations as of July, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Tampa is home to 267,207 Food Stamp aid participants, while Pinellas has about 148,598 and 80,827 residents in Pasco are getting Food Stamps, according to figures from the Department of Children & Families, according to a TBO.com report.
The numbers represent a 10-percent increase from the same month last year and a more than a 100-percent increase since 2008. The trend continues unabated, according to Food Aggregator.com.
The rate of Food Stamp participation historically follows the rate of unemployment, according to a study by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Budget Policy Priorities - but this trend has not been the case during the past four years.
On Friday, the national unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent last month and Florida’s unemployment rate has dipped overall as Food Stamp use continues to climb in the Bay area.
However a spokesman at the Department of Children and Families believes the rate will subside over the course of a few months.
"In another few months, we'll see the overall numbers start coming down," said Erin Gillespie, spokeswoman for DCF.
Gillespie offered few specifics for her claim, other than to say Food Stamp rates are not sky rocketing as they were before 2011.
John Scholz of the Wisconsin-based Institute for Research on Poverty offered a different take, saying this “recovery” includes thousands of unemployed people who have dropped out of the job search – a factor that makes the unemployment figures look much better than they are.
"The number of disappointed workers is skyrocketing still," Scholz said.
Those who are getting work sometimes find themselves working shortened hours or for lower wages and still struggling to make ends meet, he said.