MOUNT VERNON — At the request of Knox County Commissioner Allen Stockberger, Roger Shooter, director of the Knox County Department of Job & Family Services, assembled statistics offering a snapshot of the growth of food stamp and cash assistance programs in the county over the last year. Shooter said the programs have grown dramatically, and with new clients.
“Our lobbies are typically full with people we’ve never seen before,” Shooter said.
The food stamp program started in 2008, servicing 4,744 individuals and 2,056 groups in Knox County. By September 2009, this had grown to 6,993 individuals and 2,987 groups, an increase of around 47 percent. Cash assistance for the period shows similar increases.
Shooter said there have been signs that the economy is improving lately, but that jobs are lagging behind, which is typical of recovery patterns. He said the county’s unemployment figures did show an encouraging drop from 9.4 percent to 8.7 percent in September.
Cash assistance for unemployed persons has almost doubled for the first nine months of the year in 2009 over last year, according to the statistics Shooter gathered. The summer months, in particular, showed steep increases over 2008, with August almost tripling in one year.
Cash assistance to benefit children rose by 26 percent in the same period. Cash assistance for disabled persons was up over 70 percent for the period.
Shooter said cash assistance and food stamps programs are currently paying out an average of $1.1 million per month.