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How Many People Are on Welfare in 2022?

Last updated 23rd Sep 2022

The global pandemic and the recent recession have contributed to the rising cost of living. With their salaries often insufficient to cover even the most basic expenses, many Americans are relying on welfare checks to help them and their families survive.

In this article, you’ll learn more about the welfare system in the United States. Among other things, you’ll find out how many people receive welfare, who they are, and where they live.

How Many People Are on Welfare?

As of June 2022, the number of people on welfare stood at 65.7 million. This included 47.9 million retired workers along with 2.8 million of their family members, 7.8 million disabled workers and 1.3 million of their dependents, and 5.9 million survivors of deceased workers.

(Social Security Administration)

Welfare by the Numbers

In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the demographics of welfare recipients. We’ll also examine how much money the government spends on welfare and how much the recipients get.

The US government spent $2.4 trillion on welfare in fiscal year 2021.

Federal, state, and local governments spent nearly $2.4 trillion on welfare between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. This number includes $762.14 billion spent on Medicaid (health insurance for lower-income citizens) and $1.63 trillion paid towards other welfare programs.

With the rising percentage of people on welfare following the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no surprise that government spending on welfare has also increased. Compared to fiscal year 2020, the spending on Medicaid was up by 12% from $671.19 billion. Similarly, the combined spending on other welfare programs went up by 20% from $1.3 trillion in fiscal year 2020.

(US Government Spending)

In May 2022, an average SNAP household received $428.5.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) currently has more than 41.5 million participants across the US. In May 2022, the average welfare check per month amounted to $428.5 per household or $225.32 per person. This was the lowest SNAP monthly payment since March 2021, when it averaged $422.49 per household and $220.02 per person.

As for other welfare programs, the monthly payments vary. For example, the value of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is about $418 per month for a single-parent family with two kids. Meanwhile, the number of Americans on SSI welfare (Supplemental Security Income) is estimated at 5.3 million, and they each receive $617–$687 per month.

(Food and Nutrition Service, Diario AS)

1 in 8 Americans were SNAP recipients in 2021.

This program helps people in need — particularly those living below the poverty line — to provide meals for their families. According to the most recent data, the percentage of Americans on SNAP welfare has reached 13%. More than two-thirds (66%) of the program’s participants live in families with at least one child, while 36% are in families with older or disabled persons.

As mentioned, nearly 92% of SNAP benefits go to households living at or below the poverty line. Although almost 33% of the families participating in the program have an earned income, the average SNAP household grosses $872 and nets just $398 per month. And despite their difficult living conditions, only 4% of all SNAP families also receive cash benefits through TANF.

(CPBB, Food Research & Action Center)

37% of SNAP recipients are white.

Looking at welfare recipients by race, 26% are Black, 16% are Hispanic, 3% are Asian, and 2% are Native American. The race of the remaining 16% of participants in this survey is unknown. The latest available data shows that most recipients are children — 13.4% are under 5, and another 30.7% are between the ages of 5 and 18.

TANF welfare demographics paint a slightly different picture. According to the data for fiscal year 2020, the majority (35.8%) of its recipients are Hispanic. At the same time, 28.6% are Black, 27% white, 1.7% Asian, 1.5% Native American, and 0.7% are Pacific Islanders. Nearly half (47.3%) of TANF families’ youngest child is below the age of 5.

(Food Research & Action Center, Office of Family Assistance)

3.78 million Californians are SNAP recipients.

This makes California the state with the most SNAP recipients. Other states with a high number of SNAP recipients include Texas (3.41 million), Florida (2.85 million), New York (2.66 million), Illinois (1.77 million), Pennsylvania (1.76 million), Georgia (1.42 million), and Ohio (1.38 million).

If we look at the percentage of the population on welfare by state, New Mexico is in the lead with 21,300 SNAP recipients per 100,000 people. This translates to 21.3%, meaning that one in five people in New Mexico is a SNAP recipient. Other states with a high percentage of the population on welfare include Louisiana (17.3%), West Virginia (17.1%), Mississippi (14.9%), Oklahoma (14.7%), Alabama (14.4%), Oregon (13.9%), and Illinois (13.9%).

(World Population Review)

Americans and Welfare: The Takeaway

With 13% of the country’s population on SNAP, welfare continues to be a valuable source of extra income for American families. The share of people on food stamps in some states surpasses 20%. In these financially uncertain times, SNAP, TANF, and other welfare programs are especially beneficial for families and individuals living at or below the poverty line.


Radovan Sekulic

Radovan Sekulic

Radovan is a journalism graduate with years of experience as a writer and editor. He loves dabbling in numbers and percentages, interpreting data, and trying to make sense of seemingly complex information and turning this into digestible articles. He is also a pop culture aficionado with boomer taste, and if he's not watching movies or reading on current events, he's probably busy getting cat hair off his furniture.