1.8 million Illinoisans are dependent on food stamps

1.8 million Illinoisans are dependent on food stamps

March 2017 saw 15,000 more Illinoisans on food stamps than March 2016, while the number of Indiana SNAP recipients dropped from March 2016 to March 2017.

Data from the Illinois Department of Human Services show the number of Illinoisans enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, has increased year over year in March 2017. In March 2017, the total number of Illinoisans enrolled in SNAP was 1,885,248. That’s more than a 15,000-person increase from the 1,870,177 SNAP enrollees in March 2016.

But in Indiana, SNAP enrollment is falling.

The number of Indiana SNAP recipients fell by more than 9 percent, to 678,005 in March 2017 from 745,530 in March 2016.

So why are Hoosiers leaving the food stamps program, while more Illinoisans are signing up?

One of the biggest factors that drive people to seek assistance through food stamps is the lack of gainful, well-paying employment. Illinois lost 7,700 payroll jobs on net in March 2017, and the state’s workforce shrank by 3,600, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data. That trend continued in April 2017, when Illinois lost a net of 7,200 jobs and the workforce shrank by more than 17,800 people. And Illinois still has 146,000 fewer people working, on net, compared with before the Great Recession, and has 25,600 fewer jobs than during the state’s jobs peak in September 2000.

While Illinois did see a significant increase in manufacturing jobs in April 2017, Illinois’ manufacturing sector has been in a long-term decline. From July 2012, the peak period for post-recession manufacturing in Illinois, through April 2017, Illinois lost a net of 13,500 manufacturing jobs. In place of this manufacturing employment, lower-paying leisure and hospitality jobs have grown.

But things are different in Indiana.

From July 2012 to April 2017, Indiana gained 40,500 manufacturing jobs on net. As a result of Indiana’s years of robust economic growth, personal income in Indiana grew at double the rate of personal income growth in Illinois since the start of the Great Recession. From the fourth quarter of 2007 through the third quarter of 2016, Indiana’s personal income grew at an annual rate of 1.8 percent, while Illinois’ personal income grew at only a 0.9 percent annual rate. In fact, Illinois’ personal income growth was the second-worst in the nation during the recession era; only Nevada, which had an annual personal income growth rate of 0.6 percent, did worse.

Indiana’s economic success is due in part to its pro-growth policies, which attract high-paying jobs. Indiana’s workers’ compensation costs for manufacturers are a fraction of Illinois’ costs, which provides an incentive to manufacturers to move to the Hoosier State. And unlike Illinois, Indiana is a Right-to-Work state, which gives it a competitive advantage in attracting manufacturing jobs. Indiana also has much lower property taxes than Illinois, making it easier for both businesses and homeowners to invest in local communities.

Illinois’ lackluster jobs climate, reflected in part in the state’s long-term manufacturing employment losses, has contributed to poor personal income growth and a state economy in which more than 1.8 million Illinoisans depend on SNAP to feed their families.

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