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FACT CHECK: Rathje claims 17 percent of Americans on food stamps
Apr. 18, 2014 2:51 pm
'Under President Obama, 17 percent of Americans are now on food stamps. Some are truly in need, but it seems that far too many are taking advantage of taxpayers.'
Source of claim
Steve Rathje, Republican for U.S. House 1st District, on his campaign Facebook page on April 6.
We will focus on the part of the claim as to how many people are participating in the food stamp program. The second part of the statement is an opinion.
Rathje's team cited articles by the Washington Post and Associated Press as sources of his claim.
the Washington Post wrote on Sept. 23, 2013, that '47 million Americans, one-sixth of the country' is on food stamps. That would equal 16.67 percent, which rounded off is 17 percent.
The article is using an approximation, not a pinpoint fact.
The Associated Press article is based on SNAP Data from James P. Ziliak, director of Center for Poverty Research at the University of Kentucky. His study found, among other points, that 17 percent of full-time workers now receive food stamps.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture releases monthly participation figures for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Participants in this program receive what is commonly known as food stamps.
According to January 2014 USDA figures, which are the most recent available, 45,542.005 people in the United States participate in SNAP. That is slightly down from 46,782,084 participants in December, and 47,772,063 in January 2013.
The report notes that the December 2013 and January 2014 numbers are still preliminary and subject to 'significant revision.'
The January 2014 numbers translate to 15 percent of the population on food stamps, which is lower than Rathje's claim.
In Iowa, 411,462 people participate, or slightly more than 13 percent of residents use food stamps.
While participation has seen a modest dip recently, participation is up 61 percent since 2008, before the recession began and when President Barack Obama took office.
At that time, 28,223,000 people — 9 percent of the population — participated.
The cost of the program also has increased, from $34.6 million in 2008 to $76 million in 2013, and average monthly benefits have moved up, from $102 in 2008 to $133 per person in 2013, according to a USDA summary of SNAP.
Rathje's claim for food stamp participation is 17 percent, which is 2 percentage points higher than the 15 percent participation rate we verified. This isn't ideal, but the discrepancy is fairly small and it is not enough to undermine his claim.
We rate Rathje's claim as true.
United State Department of Agriculture, participant analysis: http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/29snapcurrpp.htm
USDA, participant history: http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/snapsummary.htm
Workers on food stamps: http://www.ukcpr.org/Publications/DP2013-01-2.pdf