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    Government Says Weak Economy Will Boost Food Stamp Use

    WASHINGTON - Enrollment in the U.S. food stamp program will climb by nearly one million people in fiscal 2004 due to the soft economy and restoration of benefits to legal immigrants, the Bush administration said on Monday.

    WASHINGTON - Enrollment in the U.S. food stamp program will climb by nearly one million people in fiscal 2004 due to the soft economy and restoration of benefits to legal immigrants, the Bush administration said on Monday.

    In its proposed budget for the U.S. Agriculture Department, the administration estimated an average 21.6 million people would receive food stamps each month in fiscal 2004, compared to 20.7 million this year, Reuters reports.

    The average benefit per person is just over $83 per month.

    Spending on food stamps would total $24.2 billion in fiscal 2004, which begins on Oct. 1. The program will spend an estimated $23.2 billion this fiscal year.

    The White House budget proposal was sent to Congress, which will spend the coming months determining final spending levels for all federal departments.

    The administration proposed overall spending on public nutrition programs, which include school lunch, the popular Women, Infants and Children supplemental food program and donations to food banks, at $42.86 billion, compared to $41.12 billion in the current fiscal year.

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