Poverty Rates Rising in State, Census Finds; Other Signs of Economic Trouble Include the Increase of Food Stamp Usage

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Byline: DEIRDRE CONNER

New figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show poverty is increasing in Florida, revealing the recession's impact even before the most massive layoffs began.

The American Community Survey found that 13.2 percent of people in Florida were living in poverty in 2008, up from 12.1 percent the previous year. Only one other state - California - saw a bigger increase.

Poverty guidelines are based on family size. The threshold for a family of four is about $22,000 per year or less.

Although the survey's estimates for local counties are difficult to compare with prior years because of smaller sample sizes, there are other indications of a substantial increase in poverty.

The Florida Department of Children and Families reported that the number of people receiving food stamp assistance in August 2008 was 1.6 million, up 23 percent from the same month in 2007. In the judicial circuit that consists of Nassau, Clay and Duval counties, that number was 102,737, up 22 percent. To qualify for food stamps, family income must be no higher than 130 percent of poverty before taxes.

There are indications the trend has accelerated since then. …