CANTON St. Lawrence County is continuing to see increases in the number of people receiving food stamps, but the rate of the climb appears to be leveling off.
Over the last five years, the number of people receiving help through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has gone up 47 percent.
At the end of September 2008, the number of people was 10,959. At the end of this September, that number was 16,088. Last year, the figure for the same period was 15,773. The figures include those receiving food benefits who are also receiving temporary assistance.
We have had increases all along but the increase for the last year has been a little smaller, county Department of Social Services Commissioner Christopher R. Rediehs said. I would like to hope 2014 will be an easier time for residents of St. Lawrence County.
St. Lawrence Countys unemployment rate in July was 9.1 percent, the third highest in the state but it represented a slight decrease from the same period a year earlier. The countys unemployment rate also showed a drop from 10.3 to 9. 1 percent when comparing August 2012 figures with those of August 2013.
Its encouraging, Mr. Rediehs said.
Many people who receive SNAP benefits have jobs, he said.
Most are working, Mr. Rediehs said. Its just theyre piecing jobs together and theyre not lasting. My understanding is that across the country, people have turned to food stamps.
Laura C. Cerow, commissioner of DSS in Jefferson County, said that while the department is closely monitoring the numbers, it hasnt seen an unusual increase in applicants for SNAP or temporary assistance.
Our numbers are a little bit up but they always are this time of year, because people get laid off from seasonal employment. Its not an unusual number so far. That could change with the shutdown of the federal government, Mrs. Cerow said.
There were 15,840 people receiving SNAP benefits in Jefferson County as of July 2103. Statewide, the number of people receiving SNAP benefits has risen from between 1.3 and 1.6 million to more than 3 million in 10 years.
In St. Lawrence County, the numbers of people on temporary assistance has also gone up. In 2008, there were 1,689 people receiving temporary assistance. At the end of September in 2012, that number had grown to 2,099. At the end of September this year, there were 2,236 individuals receiving the benefit.
I think people who avoided seeking help for a long time are finally coming in, Mr. Rediehs said. Were very much aware these are challenging times.