(The Center Square) – Indiana has the lowest unemployment rate in the Midwest – at 4.3% – but it also has a lot of people who’ve slipped into poverty over the last year, according to numbers from the state.
There are almost 100,000 more people receiving food stamps (SNAP benefits) than a year ago and 300,000 more people are now on Medicaid, according to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.
The number of food stamp recipients went from 564,117 in December 2019 to 663,854 in December 2020 — an increase of 99,737.
The number of households in Indiana receiving food stamps went from 254,447 in 2019 to 306,899 in 2020.
The number of people enrolled in Medicaid in the state went from 1,429,443 in December 2019 to 1,749,589 in December 2020, with 320,366 more people now on Medicaid than a year ago.
Indiana has a total population of 6.7 million, according to the most recent U.S. Census estimate, meaning that 26% of people in the state are now on Medicaid, compared to 21% a year ago.
In addition, the number of two-parent households receiving a monthly cash welfare benefit under the TANF program has increased from 232 in December 2019 to 766 in December 2020.
The average monthly TANF payment for a one-parent family is $210 and the average monthly payment for a two-person family is $269.
The average monthly food stamp amount in the state has gone from $265 per household in December 2019 to $407 per household in December 2020, but this is the result, a spokesman for FSSA says, of Indiana’s decision last April to give all food stamp (SNAP) recipients in the state the maximum monthly amount for their household size. That maximum amount is $194 for a single person, $355 for two people, $509 for three…all the way up to $1,164 for a family of eight.
But it’s not just the government numbers that tell the story of what’s happening in the lives of many Hoosiers who have fallen on hard times during the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdowns ordered by the state.
The Wheeler Mission, a Christian organization founded in 1893 that shelters and feeds the homeless at nine locations in Indiana, says it has never, in the organization’s 128-year history, seen the number of people in need that it’s now seeing in Indianapolis, Bloomington, Columbus and other cities.
More than 1,000 people slept in shelters operated by the Wheeler Mission in Indianapolis last night, says Chris-Michael Morrison, the director of the organization’s ministry in Bloomington.
“This is absolutely record-breaking,” he said. “No doubt about it.”
To keep up with the numbers of people needing help, and to allow for social distancing, the organization has opened up three hotels in Indianapolis that the state made available to them.
They’ve also hired more staff.
What’s happening in Indiana, of course, is also happening in other states, but gets little attention from state and local leaders.
According to a Columbia University study released in October, more than 8 million Americans slipped into poverty between April and September, as the pandemic and government shutdowns in most states disrupted business, led to layoffs and business closures and prevented many parents from working outside the home.