TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida's top welfare official says public aid has exploded in the past 19 months due to the slumping economy.

Department of Children & Families Secretary George Sheldon said 1.7 million Floridians are getting food stamps, up 45 percent since April 2007. He said that's the biggest increase in the nation.

He cited those figures Tuesday at a news conference with Gov. Charlie Crist to announce a new Web site to help the growing number
of people getting food stamps, Medicaid and other assistance.

People can use the site - www.myflorida.com/accessflorida - to check on their cases.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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