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More Oklahomans needed public assistance in 2011, Census Bureau says

Despite the falling unemployment rate in Oklahoma, more people needed food stamps and welfare assistance.
by Chris Casteel Modified: November 28, 2012 at 7:58 pm •  Published: November 28, 2012

More Oklahomans relied on federal assistance last year than in 2010, according to new Census Bureau figures that show increases in both food stamp and welfare participation.

Oklahoma was one of only seven states that saw an increase from 2010 to 2011 among those collecting federal welfare benefits, known formally as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and General Assistance. And it was one of 17 states with a higher participation rate — 3.6 percent of households — than the national average of 2.9 percent in 2011.

Nearly 206,000 Oklahomans received food stamps at some point in 2011, up from about 196,000 in 2010.

According to the Census Bureau figures, 14.3 percent of Oklahoma households received food stamps last year, more than the national average of 13 percent. The national average was up from 12 percent in 2010.

The increases came despite the fact that Oklahoma's unemployment rate dropped from 7.2 percent in January 2010 to 6.3 percent in December 2011.

State's figures differ

Alex Weintz, spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin, said Wednesday that state Department of Human Services figures — calculated on a fiscal year basis rather than a calendar year basis like the Census figures — show a decrease in people collecting Temporary Assistance to Needy Families from 2011 to 2012.

And he said the growth in food stamp recipients had slowed dramatically compared to increases in previous years. Only 11,000 Oklahomans were added as food stamp beneficiaries from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2012, Weintz said, down from 101,000 in the previous year, according to DHS figures.

“Oklahoma, like the rest of the nation, has suffered from the national recession,” Weintz said. “We have been fortunate, however, that our natural assets, strong private sector and sound public policy choices have left the state in a better position than most others.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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