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Many retailers are accepting food stamps for the first time

Children Of Sept 11

An increasing number of companies are now accepting food stamps, but it's not entirely out of the goodness of their hearts.

Due to the shaky economy, more Americans than ever qualify for government aid to pay for groceries. According to the Illinois Department of Human Services, 17.6 percent more households received financial assistance in July compared to a year ago.

Food stamps are provided via a Link Card, similar to a bank debit card, which provides cash and food stamp benefits electronically. The card is accepted by more than 9,000 retailers statewide, according to the Trib, and between October and March, 431 stores began accepting it for the first time. 

Low-income people and families can now use their benefits at Sam's Club, Costco, CVS, 7-Eleven, and BJ's Wholesale Clubs. Meanwhile, all Target stores will begin accepting the card, not just those with expanded grocery departments.

But Kevin Concannon, USDA undersecretary for food nutrition and consumer services, says the new business scheme isn't about compassion.

"It's not Mother Teresa," he told the Trib. "It's the accountants in the back telling them to accept them. They are thrilled to have that revenue."

Concannon says that many Americans qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and don't even realize it. Several factors are taken into account, including (but not limited to) income and expenses; the number of people who live and eat together; and the amount of available liquid assets, such as money in checking and savings accounts. Homeowners should not automatically assume that they are not eligible.

But as more and more of those Americans apply for and receive federal assistance, it won't just be kindly of retailers to accept food stamps; it will be downright necessary.

Matt Bartosik, a "between blogs" blogger, hopes things turn around soon.

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