THE BRONX - Gov. David Paterson announced Wednesday an increase in benefits for low-income families receiving food stamps.

Homes in the Bronx are expected to see an average increase of $131 per month beginning Oct. 1. Households throughout the rest of the state are expected to see an average monthly increase of $72.

"Rising food and commodities prices are affecting all New Yorkers," Paterson says. "Increasing food stamp benefits for some of our state's most vulnerable residents will truly make a difference in their lives."

The timing could not be better, say many Bronx residents who are struggling amid a sagging economy and rising food and fuel prices.

"The week before I get my coupons I already am down to nothing," says Tahesha Best.

Employees of the Highbridge Community Life Center say they have seen a steady increase in the number of applicants for food stamps this year. Bill Fecteau, who works at the center, says the spike has come mostly in the number of immigrants who are applying.

The city says the number of New Yorkers receiving food stamps has risen 12 percent since last year.