Around the holidays there's a lot of emphasis on food. But currently, about 1 in every 7 people in the U.S. gets help buying that food from the government. Since last December, total food stamp payments in Texas have gone up nearly 22%. Geoff Wool, a spokesman for the Health and Human Services Commission in Austin says the unemployment rate can have an affect, because you have to actively be looking for employment to qualify for help.
"Certainly that's a river that gets people into the offices seeking the benefits," he said.
But another reason for the climb is what Wool calls a 'synergy.' The increase of food stamps itself causes more of an increase.
"Generally when there are more people who are using the benefits, there's more information such as news articles. The more people talk about these benefits, the more people become aware of them," he said.
In Wichita County, about 14.5% of the 125,000 or so residents are part of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP. Case numbers in the county have gone up some, but Wool doesn't think the average amount per recipient is very high.
"It's pretty much in line with what's happening across the state. That's pretty typical of what we're seeing in some of the more urban counties in the state," he said.
SNAP is a federal program administered at the state level. So while the feds are the ones determining how much benefits go up to match inflation, the state will continue to help whomever it can.
"These are programs that are in place to help people who are in need. It's not the kind of program where we say there's a certain number of people who will get served and then after that nobody gets served," Wool said.