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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson September 7, 2016

Rudy Giuliani says food stamps rose two and a half times under Barack Obama

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a surrogate for Donald Trump, criticized President Barack Obama’s stewardship of the economy as he touted Trump’s efforts to court African-American voters.

"So, now you compare New York to Detroit and Baltimore, and you look at the number of crimes in both of those cities and you look at New York, you look at the unemployment rates, you look at the economic opportunities, and you see that I think Donald Trump is the first Republican since Jack Kemp, and me, to go into minority poor communities and say, the Democrats have failed you for 50 years, and you are reflexively giving them your vote, and they are going from bad to worse," Giuliani said in an interview on the Sept. 4, 2016, edition of CNN’s State of the Union. "Food stamps have gone up two-and-a-half times under Barack Obama. He should be ashamed of himself. Jobs should have gone up two-and-a-half times."

Is the use of food stamps -- formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP -- really two-and-a-half times higher than it was when Obama took office?

The short answer is that it’s higher -- but not by nearly that much. And in recent years, it’s been falling.

As we’ve noted, SNAP is the federal government’s largest food program, eclipsing other big farm-bill food spending for school lunches and breakfasts and for Women, Infants and Children. It helps low-income people buy groceries, usually with benefit cards that work like debit cards.

Two factors undergird the rise in food stamp use during Obama’s presidency.

The first is that the number of food stamp beneficiaries ticked upward under President George W. Bush due to policies that broadened eligibility for the program and more aggressive efforts to get eligible Americans to apply for benefits. These policies remained in place under Obama.

The second is the 2007-09 recession, which drove the number of SNAP recipients to record highs. In an average month in 2011, one in seven U.S. residents got help.

So what does the trend line for food stamp usage under Obama look like? Here’s a graph, drawn from Agriculture Department data:

Note that the number of beneficiaries did rise -- but not nearly by two-and-a-half times, or 150 percent. At the outset of Obama’s presidency, nearly 32 million people were receiving SNAP benefits. By May 2016, that number had risen to 43.5 million -- an increase of 36 percent.

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That’s a significant increase, and it’s one of the weakest economic metrics on Obama’s watch. But it’s not two-and-a-half times as high as when he came into office, as Giuliani said.

It’s also worth noting that, while the number of recipients is higher now than it was when Obama took office, it has fallen, slowly but consistently, over the past three years.

What about the cost of the program? We created a graph from that data as well.

This shows that during the Obama presidency, the cost of SNAP increased at a somewhat faster rate than the number of beneficiaries did -- by just under 50 percent. But even that increase was nowhere near the two and a half times or 150 percent that Giuliani cited.

We inquired with Giuliani’s office and Trump’s campaign but did not hear back.

Our ruling

Giuliani said that "food stamps have gone up two-and-a-half times under Barack Obama."

Due to expanded eligibility and outreach, as well as the after-effects of the Great Recession -- each of which began under Bush -- the number of SNAP beneficiaries and the cost of the program has risen under Obama.

However, the increase in these metrics has been 36 percent and 50 percent, respectively -- far less than the two-and-a-half-times multiplier Giuliani used. It’s also worth noting that both of these figures have been falling consistently over the past several years, a trend that Giuliani’s comment obscures. We rate the claim False.

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Rudy Giuliani says food stamps rose two and a half times under Barack Obama

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