California food stamp costs reach record highs

Record set even though state posted lowest unemployment rate in at least 46 years.

Updated: November 28, 2022 - 12:06am

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Despite posting the lowest unemployment rate in at least 46 years, the state of California had more people on the federal food stamp program in 2022 than ever.

California's participation in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in 2022 peaked at 4.9 million people as of July and then dropped to 4.6 million in August, the most recent month data is available from the federal government.

By comparison, California's highest participation on SNAP in 2020 was 4.8 million people in June 2020. But California was under a shelter-in-place order from March through June 2020 and many businesses were ordered closed in 2020. The state's unemployment rate during the pandemic peaked at 16.1% as of May 2020.

California's unemployment rate was 3.8% as of September 2022, the lowest as far back as 1976, when online data is available.

California has approved funding in the 2022-23 budget to allow undocumented immigrants ages 55 and over to get food assistance under the state-funded California Food Assistance Program, which is separate from the federally-funded SNAP program.

California has given extra SNAP money to recipients due to COVID-19. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in October that the COVID-19 state of emergency would end Feb. 28, 2023. The per-person cost of the SNAP program has increased from $123.22 per month in March 2020 before the state of emergency declaration to $277.12 as of August 2022.

That $277.12 August 2022 benefit is the state's highest ever for the federal SNAP program.