Idaho Workers on Government Assistance Among Lowest in the U.S.

The depth of the recession and a slow early recovery nearly doubled the percentage of Idaho workers who had jobs and were still receiving government assistance through Medicaid and other programs for the low income and disabled.

In jumping from 2 percent in 2008, or about 14,400 of the 727,000 employed, to 3.6 percent in 2012, or about 25,700 of 711,000 employed, Idaho still had one of the nation’s lowest percentages of workers on welfare, even with the state’s comparatively low wages. According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Idaho ranked 40th among the states and the District of Columbia in 2012, up from 49th in 2008. Only Nevada at 1.4 percent and Virginia at 1.8 percent had lower percentages of workers on welfare in 2008.

Nationally, the percentage of workers receiving assistance rose from 3.9 percent in 2008 to 5.4 percent in 2014.

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The American Community Survey asked whether people received “Medicaid, Medical Assistance or any kind of government-assistance plan for those with low incomes or a disability.” The question focused on health care but opened itself up to inclusion of other kinds of assistance such as food stamps.

Idaho’s low percentages tracked overall percentages of the population receiving assistance. In 2012, 15.8 percent of the total population and 36.9 percent of those under 16 received government assistance, up from 10.6 percent of the total population and 26.1 percent of those under 16 in 2008.

Nationally, those receiving assistance rose from 13.7 percent to 18 percent for the total population and from 28.8 percent to 38.7 percent for children under 16. Idaho was one of only 14 states to show a steady annual increase in the percentage of workers receiving assistance from 2008 to 2012.

More states joined Idaho in persistent increases from 2008 to 2012 in the percentage of the total population receiving assistance – 24 – and in children under 16 on assistance – 26.

Of the nearly 26,000 Idaho workers who held jobs but still qualified for assistance in 2012, over 4,400 worked in bars and restaurants, more than 4,000 in retail and 3,200 in health care, accounting for more than 45 percent of the total.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Census Bureau found no job holders receiving assistance in mining and utilities.

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Bob.Fick@labor.idaho.gov, Communications Manager
(208) 332-3570, ext. 3628