WASHINGTON -- Regardless of whether Republicans succeed in cutting food stamps this year, the 22 million American households relying on the program will see their benefits drop in November.
The looming reduction has received little attention since lawmakers set it in motion years ago. The average household's monthly benefit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will drop by $20 or $25, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal Washington think tank.
"The general public doesn't realize it," Celia Cole, CEO of the Texas Food Bank Network, told The Huffington Post on Monday. "We certainly know the low income people on SNAP don't know the cut is coming."
Cole's organization is publicizing the cut with a countdown clock. On Monday the clock indicated there are 94 days "until every SNAP (food stamps) household in America gets a little hungrier."
But Congress has little appetite for intervention, as the consensus among lawmakers is not whether food stamps should be reduced, but by how much.
The November reduction is happening separately from the debate over cutting food stamps as part of a broader farm bill. The cut is set to kick in because a 13 percent benefit boost from the 2009 stimulus bill is expiring. Initially, the plan was to let inflation catch up with the increase so that SNAP recipients would never see a month-to-month dollar decline.
But in 2010, Senate Democrats and the Obama administration needed money to offset the cost of a series of spending bills. They said at the time they would replace the money later, but they never did. Congressional attitudes toward food stamp recipients have only gotten less generous since then.
The $668 maximum monthly benefit for a family of four will fall to $643, according to the Center on Budget's Stacy Dean and Dottie Rosenbaum. (The average household's monthly benefit is $287.)
"This cut will be the equivalent of taking away 14 meals per month for a family of four, or 11 meals for a family of three," Dean and Rosenbaum wrote in a May report. The pair said that states should make sure recipients know when the cut is around the corner.
First and foremost, Cole said her mission is to get the word out in Texas. Her organization represents 21 food banks serving all parts of the state. Cole also wants members of Congress to feel some pressure.
"I want them to not be able to do it without feeling the shame that they're doing something wrong," she said.