Food stamp use in Idaho hits new high

A record number of Idahoans are receiving food stamps, a sign that the state's economy still struggles.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is processing 9,000 new food stamp applications each month, said Tom Shanahan, a department spokesman. More than 176,600 people are enrolled in the program - more than double the 2007 level.

"We're setting records every month," Shanahan said. "Food stamps are a good indicator of the number of people living near poverty. We're seeing the effects of layoffs and high unemployment."

Idahoans typically are reluctant to accept government aid, and the state has a relatively low rate of eligible people applying for aid. Around 60 percent of eligible people actually apply for aid, Shanahan said. A department official testified to lawmakers last week that 33 percent of people applying for help in the last two years had never applied before.

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