Lisa Baertlein
Reuters
February 6, 2012

Stung by election-year criticism of a program used by one in seven Americans, administrators of U.S. food stamp benefits are intensifying efforts to combat fraud and protect the $75.3 billion plan from the budget axe.

Enrollment in the food aid program that helps the poor, elderly and disabled is running at record high levels, with 46.1 million people now participating.

High joblessness, persistent woes in the housing market and a tepid economic recovery have driven more that 14 million people to sign up for the benefits since U.S. President Barack Obama took office three years ago.

That number includes many displaced workers, who are now attempting to eke out a living with low-wage or part-time jobs. In many states, a family of four with net income of just over $23,000 would qualify for food stamps.

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