The fiscal stimulus legislation of 2009, followed by further rounds of stimulus, increased the SNAP benefits, first by $20 to $25 per month to spur economic recovery. According to the USDA, the average monthly benefit is about $275 per household, or about $1.40 per meal.
The maximum monthly benefit for a family of four increased from $584 to $668. The idea was that inflation would bring the basic benefit up to the $668 level by the time the stimulus increase expired, but Congress accelerated the expiration twice.
A 15 percent reduction in benefits will affect nearly 48 million Americans, or 23 million households. This translates to a loss of about 21 meals per month for a family of four.
In the meantime, lawmakers are battling over how much further to cut the program, and a conference committee will decide its fate.
The House proposes cutting SNAP by $4 billion per year and instituting a work requirement, while the Senate proposal would cut just $400 million per year. But neither plan is expected to be taken up before November 1, when the program is set to be cut by $5 billion.
“It is just unconscionable that they would think this is the road to prosperity,” California Rep. George Miller, the ranking Democrat on the Education and Labor Committee, said of the House proposal. “That you get to the road to prosperity by attacking the most vulnerable in our society.”
But Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), who has been appointed to the conference committee, defended the work requirement saying, "God created Adam, placed him in the Garden to work it." Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) shot back that the Bible also mentioned the "poor and hungry over 200 times."