Alaska’s food stamp debacle shows how small cuts can make a big impact


government official i knew it for months Delays in processing applications for food stamp benefits have revealed that financial assistance was denied to thousands of eligible households, including children, who needed help to cover three meals a day.

There were multiple explanations. Shortages of staff, a cyberattack on computer systems two years ago, and increased paperwork and income verification requirements after the state ended its pandemic emergency declaration months ago. However, children cannot swallow the description, especially those past the expiration date.

Moreover, the unacceptable delay in reviewing applications and issuing benefits to eligible Alaskans violates federal law. Governments have the right to set timelines for states to follow. The rule says 30 days. Some Alaskans said he waited over four months.

And now federal officials warned alaska Months of delays in issuing food stamps could result in fines if not addressed quickly. Alaska was the only state to receive such a warning last month.

More than 90,000 Alaskans, or about 1 in 8, use food stamps at home. Most participating families have children. Many have incomes below the federal poverty line.

Certainly not everyone is caught up in the delay, but the state health commissioner told the Anchorage Daily News on March 8 that Alaska is waiting to process its food stamp applications this fall and winter. They say there are about 9,000 people. The commissioner estimates that it will probably take him another two months to clear the backlog.

During this trying time for families waiting, the response from state officials has been to talk about better ways, promise more hiring, more staff training, and new software to speed up the process. system, etc. Then, late last month, the governor redirected about $1.7 million from a program aimed at stocking up on shelf-stable foods in the event of a natural disaster, and that Instead, it announced that it would send the money to a food bank to help feed those in need right now.

Help is certainly welcome, but it took too long.

The administration has taken too long to accept the reality that 2021 budget cuts will cost the public a real cost at the cost of dozens of jobs in the public aid sector. The person who paid was a low income Alaskan and was told to wait. We will receive your application as soon as possible.

It took too long for the Ministry of Health to face a backlog and prioritize fixing it.

It has also taken too long for the government to immediately help starving families, especially those in rural areas who have been waiting months for food stamp benefits.

Asking starving people for patience is too much.

Larry Persily A longtime journalist in Alaska, with breaks in federal, state, and local service on oil and gas, tax, and fiscal policy.

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