With thousands of food stamp recipients facing possible benefit delays next week, Congress plans to complete action Friday on an omnibus supplemental appropriations bill that includes $1.2 billion to continue the food stamp program through Sept. 30.
Although final action by the weekend would meet the Monday deadline for replenishing the nearly depleted food stamp coffers, reports filtering back to Congress indicate that some states are already taking precautionary steps that could mean a delay of several days in dispensing August food stamps.
The big catch-all money bill for the rest of fiscal 1983 has been delayed largely by an unresolved dispute in the House over $8.4 billion in funding for the International Monetary Fund.
Although a conference last week resolved most differences in the two houses' versions of the bill, the Senate stuck by its proposal for inclusion of the IMF money, while the House insisted on leaving it out, at least until the House could complete consideration of a bill authorizing the expenditure.
But, with no prospect of enough votes to pass the IMF authorization soon, House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) said yesterday that the House will act on the supplemental money bill, presumably meaning IMF funds will have to be considered later.
Sources on the Senate side indicate that, faced with the food stamp deadline, the Senate will probably go along with the IMF exclusion and pass the bill in time for President Reagan to sign it by Monday's deadline.
Earlier veto threats faded after the House-Senate conferees scaled the bill down to meet Reagan's budget demands. But the White House, while not sounding a new veto warning, has objected to a little-noticed provision costing about $100 million that would protect cotton growers against losses they fear from the administration's payment-in-kind (PIK) program for acreage reductions. The administration is also still seeking the IMF money.
The Department of Agriculture said yesterday that states have been notified to go ahead with preparation for issuance of food stamps on Monday on the assumption that the money will be in hand.
But Robert Greenstein, a former food stamp administrator who is now director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said that some states are holding up issuance of food stamp authorization cards out of fear that the food stamps cannot be handed out Monday.
Recipients who ordinarily receive their stamps in the mail on the first of the month, including many elderly people, may also face a delay of several days, he said.
Meanwhile, the Senate passed two more appropriations bills for next year: $2.2 billion for the District of Columbia and $7.2 billion for military construction. This puts the Senate, as well as the House, past the half-way mark in initial action on the 13 regular appropriations bills for fiscal 1984.
But most of the biggest and most controversial bills remain in committee, including the huge defense and labor, health and human services bills.
The military construction bill, passed amid congressional concern over U.S. military involvement in Central America, forbids the Pentagon to spend $8 million earmarked for a second contingency airfield in Honduras until it reports to Congress on past and future U.S. defense construction in the region.
In brief debate on the measure, Sen. Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.) cited disputed reports that a congressional appropriation for an airbase in Honduras has been diverted to other purposes. The House earlier rejected the $8 million request as unnecessary.