(WASHINGTON) -- According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), some 45.8 million people collected food stamps in May, up from 44 million in April.
That's an all-time high, up 12 percent from a year ago and an astonishing 34 percent from two years ago. Comparing May 2010 to May 2011, more than 20 states have seen double-digit percent growth in individuals seeking food assistance benefits.
"The rise in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) indicates that the economy is still in tough shape and for a lot of people the recession has not ended," Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist for ConvergEx, told ABC News.
Alabama saw a dramatic increase in food stamp recipients after deadly storms tore through the area, leading some residents to seek disaster relief, according to the USDA. Of Alabama's more than 4.7 million residents, 1.7 million are receiving assistance for food, according to the agency. The figure has more than doubled from May 2010 to May 2011 for the state's residents.
Throughout the years, the cost to maintain SNAP has risen due to inflation, and an increase in demand as the program sheds its stigma -- and as the economy continues to suffer.
In 2010, the program cost U.S. taxpayers $68 billion, compared with $250 million in 1969 when the program began, or $1.4 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars.
With Congress set to trim trillions from the federal budget over the next decade, some are speculating that the USDA may face cuts.
While the SNAP program could turn into a political topic, "the food stamp program does run much more directly to childhood hunger than an unemployed single program," says Colas. "If a politician wants to propose cutting food stamps they're going to run into the 20 percent of Americans using it."
Overall, 1 in 5 people in the U.S receive food stamp assistance and the average household receives $284 a month from the program.
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