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For all of the spending in Washington under President Barack Obama, the American people are not better off, Donald Trump argued in his July 21 speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination.
"President Obama has almost doubled our national debt to more than $19 trillion, and growing," Trump said. "Yet what do we have to show for it? Our roads and bridges are falling apart, our airports are in third-world condition, and 43 million Americans are on food stamps."
We wanted to fact-check his statistic about Americans using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the program formerly known as food stamps.
SNAP benefits provide vouchers for groceries for qualifying low-income Americans.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees SNAP, counted almost 43.6 million people in the program in April 2016, the most recent data available.
So Trump is on point, numbers-wise. But there’s a dollop more to the story.
The amount of people on food stamps, while considerable, is an improvement.
When Obama took office in January 2009, almost 32 million people received SNAP benefits. The number increased during the Great Recession as more families turned to the program for assistance, averaging an annual high of 47.6 million participants in 2013.
A report by the Food Research & Action Center, a hunger and nutrition advocacy group, applauded the 43 million figure in April as the lowest level of participants since October 2010. From April 2015 to April 2016, participation is down 1.9 million participants.
We explained in a previous fact-check that it’s unclear whether SNAP sign-ups would have been just as high under a Republican president, as the economy was weakening before Obama took office. The beneficiary pool was already increasing under President George W. Bush, whose administration broadened eligibility criteria and tried to get more Americans to apply for SNAP assistance.
The Republican policy platform approved at the RNC recommends breaking the SNAP program away from the USDA and the farm bill, under which funding for the program is usually negotiated in Congress. As an independent entity, SNAP would be more vulnerable to budget cuts.
Trump said, "Forty-three million Americans are on food stamps."
The number of SNAP participants has been falling in recent years amid the economic recovery, but Trump is reciting the most recent participation.
We rate Trump’s claim True.
PolitiFact, "Herman Cain said food stamp program use up under Obama," May 24, 2011
Bloomberg, "Republicans target SNAP, labeling rules in platform," July 19, 2016
Food Research & Action Center report, "SNAP Over-the-Year Participation Fell by Over 773,000 People in April 2016 to Its Lowest Level in Five and a Half Years," April 2016
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