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Posted at 02:54 PM ET, 04/06/2010

D.C. officials announce expansion of food stamp program

District officials announced Tuesday that they greatly expanded the city's food stamp program recently, allowing up to 5,000 residents to be added to the rolls to help fight poverty and boost the local economy.

At a news conference this afternoon, council member Michael Brown (I-At Large) and Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) said officials are now implementing the Food Stamp Expansion Act, which the council approved last year.

Under the bill, residents will no longer have to earn 130 percent of the poverty level or less to qualify for food stamps. Instead, residents who participate in other low-income assistance programs will automatically qualify for food stamps. Some of those programs allow individual participation up to 200 percent of the poverty limit, currently $22,050 for a family of four in the District.

"Today we celebrate a great step forward in our fight against hunger and poverty in the District of Columbia," Brown said.

Cheh noted that the changes will not cost District taxpayers much money because the federal government will reimburse the city for the changes. According to estimates from city officials, about 4,800 residents will now be eligible for food stamps who otherwise would not have been.

Cheh and Brown stressed that, in a city such as the District, the additional food stamp revenues can have a big impact on the economy. Citing various economists, they estimate that every $1 in food stamps generates $1.73 of local economic activity.

"For a guy raising his kids, now he will get $200 a month in food stamps and that is huge," Cheh said. "And if you magnify that out to 4,000 or 5,000 people . ... These are people at the very bottom rung, and if you can get them $200 in food stamps, now they can eat."

Still, for some residents both inside and outside the city, the fact that city officials are bragging about increasing the District's food stamps rolls is sure to generate debate, and reinforce conservatives' criticisms of the District government's priorities.

--Tim Craig

By Washington Post Editors  |  02:54 PM ET, 04/06/2010

Categories:  Tim Craig, Tim Craig, Tim Craig | Tags:  food stamp program expansion, officials announce expansion of food stamp program

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