Ocean County residents, largely outside the traditional commuting distance from high-paying employers in New York City and Philadelphia, have one of the state’s highest-reliance on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.
According to a report compiled by NJ Spotlight, a website that analyzes public policy statewide, 9.1 percent of county residents receive food benefits from the joint federal-state program. In all, 54,272 people were enrolled in the program in July 2017, when the data was collected, with the average per-person monthly benefit adding up to $97.
The news website’s map shows stark differences between the state’s 21 counties. Counties with poor, urban areas have the largest percentages of residents who rely on the program, but some of the state’s suburban counties also had numbers.
Monmouth County, with more train and waterway access to New York, had almost half the rate of participation as Ocean County, with 5.1 percent of residents receiving benefits.
Ocean County residents received a total of $5,280,552 in SNAP benefits per month last year.
While tourism injects $4.6 billion into the state’s economy, data has shown employees of tourism-based businesses generally receive wages far lower than the state average. The county’s distance from New York and Philadelphia, where the majority of the region’s highest-paying jobs are located, have also had an impact.
The Ocean County freeholder board raised concerns last year that the state’s 23-cent gas tax hike would disproportionately affect local residents, as data has shown Ocean County workers has the highest percentage of out-of-county commuters statewide.
Hunterdon County had the fewest number of residents receiving benefits, at 2.1 percent, and rural Cumberland County had the highest rate, at 17.7 percent.