Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY
Food stamp benefits will be cut to more than 47 million Americans starting Friday as a temporary boost to the federal program comes to an end without a new budget from a deadlocked Congress to replace it.
Under the program, known formally as the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program, or SNAP, a family of four that gets $668 per month in benefits will find that amount cut by $36.
SNAP, which benefits one in seven Americans, is administered by the Department of Agriculture and is authorized in a five-year omnibus farm bill covering all agricultural programs.
Vulnerable populations will be hardest hit by the cuts. In New York, more than 1 million elderly people or those with disabilities will feel the impact, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank. About 2.3 million children in both California and Texas will be affected.
In California overall, the cuts will affect more than 4 million residents and will amount to the equivalent of losing roughly 21 individual meals per month, based on calculations used by the Department of Agriculture, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, head of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, says the state's charities and food pantries, which distributed $227 million in food to needy residents in 2012, will not be able to make up a $190 million deficit in 2014, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reports.
"We will have to do what low-income people do, which is reduce the amount of food we hand out and ration," she said. Hamler-Fugitt tells the newspaper that she expects increased hunger in the state, affecting the health of senior citizens and people with disabilities and forcing more school children to go to classes without eating.
Last year, the average monthly benefit per household for all 50 states and the District of Columbia was $278, according to Stateline, the daily news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts.
"(They) will take away more food in our city than we, Food Bank for New York City, the nation's largest food bank, distribute in an entire year," said Margarette Purvis, the Food Bank's president and CEO, the Daily News of New York reports.
Two factors are driving the fiscal squeeze. The first is the windup of additional SNAP allocations under President Obama's 2009 stimulus bill. The second is the inability of Congress to agree on a new farm bill.
Negotiations on a new bill, including cuts to the SNAP program, began Wednesday. Five-year farm bills passed by both the House and the Senate would cut food stamps, reductions that would come on top of the cut that goes into effect Friday. But the two chambers are far apart on the amounts.
The bill passed by the Republican-controlled House would cut $39 billion from the program over the next decade. It would also end government waivers that have allowed able-bodied adults without dependents to receive food stamps indefinitely and allow states to put broad new work requirements in place. The bill passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate calls for only a $4 billion cut.
A farm bill usually win bipartisan support because it includes funds for agricultural programs favored by farm and business interests and SNAP, which is supported by liberal and urban interests.
If a joint bill is not passed by the end of the year and current farm law is not extended, certain dairy supports would expire, possibly raising the price of milk. Farmers would start to feel more effects next spring.
"It took us years to get here, but we are here," House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said. "Let's not take years to get it done."
Contributing: Associated Press