Food stamp use reaches five-year high in Oklahoma

Wednesday, July 24th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Food stamp use has reached a five-year high in Oklahoma, the director of the state Department of Human Services said.

Preliminary statistics released by DHS officials showed there were 329,344 food stamp participants in June, a 25.4 percent increase above the participation level in June 2001.

``Historically, food stamps are a leading economic indicator,'' DHS Executive Director Howard Hendrick said during a meeting of the state Commission for Human Services in Enid.

``I think most of it (the increase) is due to working people who have trouble making ends meet.''

Medicaid and child-care subsidies also increased, but Temporary Assistance to Needy Families remained flat, Hendrick said in a story from the Tulsa World's Capitol bureau.

Participation in the TANF fell from 8,171 in March to 7,909 in June.

``It says to me a lot of folks are working but not enough to make it really work,'' he said.

The number of people eligible for Medicaid assistance in May was 484,880, the most in four or five years, Hendrick said. That same month, the number of children who participated in state-subsidized child care totaled 49,034, a record high.

The child-care program incorporates a sliding income scale to determine the amount of the subsidies.

``To be eligible you have to be at work,'' Hendrick said. ``That is a good sign people are working, but many of them are working at jobs where they are not able to cover the full cost of child care.''

Hendrick said he had hoped that food stamp participation would peak in May, but the preliminary numbers for June show that not to be the case.

``There is no question this is not the direction you want to go,'' he said. ``Hopefully it will stabilize pretty soon.''