The Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the Food Stamp program) pays state governments bonuses for recruiting additional people to sign up for food stamps. Each year, states with the highest percentage of eligible participants enrolled in the program split $12 million in bonus funds. Additionally, the Department awards another $6 million in bonus money to states that are the fastest at signing up new program applicants. As of August 2011, nearly 46 million Americans were on food stamps, or 15 percent of the population. Benefit costs were over $71 billion between September of 2010 and August of 2011. Program participation has grown steadily since the economic downturn began, and increased by 8 percent in 2011. There is no need to pay states for increasing the number of food stamp recipients they enroll in the program.