Stimulus Boost For Food Stamp Recipients

Food stamp recipient Bobbi Foster
Food stamp recipient Bobbi Foster is seen shopping in Martinsburg, W. Va. The federal stimulus package will increase food stamp payments by 13 percent -- a move designed both to help the poor and unemployed and to boost employment at grocery stores.

The government's stimulus package is giving a much smaller bonus to people on the bottom end of the economic ladder - the more than 32 million Americans who rely on food stamps. That's one out of 10 Americans, an all-time record high.

And as CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes reports, they're glad to get any kind of help at all.

For Bobbi Foster of Martinsburg, W.V., the once simple task of grocery shopping has suddenly become a burden. In December, her husband Danny lost his trucking job.

"Everyone I know has been laid off work. When I see people going to work I'm surprised -- they have a job!" Foster said.

A month later, Danny was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. The Fosters signed up for food stamps. As a West Virginia family of four, they would receive $329 a month - not nearly enough to cover their monthly food expenses.

But that may change this month when every American on food stamps (or "nutrition assistance" as it's now known) will find 13 percent more money on their state-issued debit cards.

It's stimulus money. And while it will certainly help the Fosters, its really aimed at thieir grocer, who stands to make an extra $25,000 a week, enabling him to hire up to five more part-time workers.

"Everyone goes to the grocery store," said Martin's Supermarket manager Mike Sword. "I can't think of a better way, frankly, to stimulate the economy."

That's particularly true in West Virginia, where thanks to the slowing economy one in six residents now receives nutrition assistance. It's the highest level in 30 years.

"We're seeing people using the food program for the first time. These are not people that are used to walking through a local office and applying for food assistance," said Kathryn Boylan, of West Virginia's Bureau for Children and Families.

The stimulus plan will also increase unemployment benefits, by about $25 a week, with the assumption that those who have the least will spend whatever they get, pumping that money into the economy.

"[For us,] it means surviving. Really, surviving for the month," Foster said. "When you are living week to week day by day you know it would make things a lot easier."

And in this market, easier is about all anyone can ask for.

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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.