"They believe there are people who would not otherwise qualify for SNAP, who only get into the program through this efficiency," Vilsack said. "The problem with this theory is, there are far more people who qualify for the program who will be discouraged from participating in this program.
"There won't be as many people getting the program who need the program."
Cuts to SNAP would hurt more than just needy families, Vilsack said. A reduction in funding would affect everyone along the supply chain, from farms to truckers and grocery store workers.
Vilsack said 97 percent of SNAP benefits are spent within 30 days. About 16 cents of every dollar winds up in a farmer's pocket, he said, and for every dollar invested in the program, SNAP generates about $1.80 in economic activity.
"You're really talking about a reduction in several billion dollars in farm income," he said.
Short of a good-paying job, Vilsack said SNAP is one of the best poverty-reducing programs in the country.
"It reverberates through the economy," he said. "We will work with whatever Congress ultimately decides to do, but I think it's important for people to realize there are consequences."
Vilsack said SNAP cuts proposed by the Senate agriculture committee are less drastic because the focus is on the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Currently, anyone who receives LIHEAP benefits, even if it's a few dollars a month, is automatically eligible for SNAP.
According to a Congressional Budget Office report, some states send small LIHEAP payments, some as little as $1, to people so they can automatically qualify for the SNAP program.
Nearly 500,000 households nationwide would see reductions in SNAP benefits if Senate cuts become law, the report found.
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