Changes in food assistance program reduce Alaskans' access to benefits, food bank says

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Changes in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will leave about 8,000 Alaskans without a waiver in October which allowed them access to benefits, according to Food Bank of Alaska.

According to the food bank, the state administration of the Division of Public Assistance notified them that a waiver, which exempts able-bodied adults without dependents from meeting SNAP work requirement time limits, will be voided in areas with less than 10 percent unemployment.

About 9,745 Alaskans currently benefit from the waiver. About 83 percent of those people will lose their waivers in October, said Eve Van Dommelen, the Policy and Advocacy Manager with the Food Bank of Alaska.

In 2020, Van Dommelen said the waiver will be entirely removed.

“During a three-year time period, they can only receive three months of SNAP benefits in which they are not required to meet those requirements for work, which includes 20 hours of work a week or 20 hours of volunteering,” said SNAP outreach manager for Food Bank of Alaska Indianna Turkisher.

“In Alaska, we have such a high unemployment rate and we have so many seasonal jobs, which is going to be really hard to qualify in terms of a time limit and documenting potential hours people work,” Turkisher said.

Van Dommelen also said that another added layer of concern to the changes in the program are recent state budget cuts.

“Already, the anti-hunger network is anticipating an increase in food insecurity and need for food assistance,” she said. “This change will further impact food insecurity and reduce options available to Alaskans during this tumultuous time.”

According to Van Dommelen, the following areas will be affected in October by the new changes:

  • Aleutians East Borough

  • Anchorage

  • Fairbanks North Star Borough

  • Juneau

  • Kenai Peninsula Borough

  • Ketchikan Gateway Borough

  • Kodiak Island Borough

  • Matanuska-Susitna Borough

  • North Slope Borough

  • Sitka

  • Aleutians West Census Area

  • Dillingham Census Area

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