Thursday, September 21, 2023
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State of Alaska has cleared backlog of SNAP benefit applications to June

The Alaska Department of Health, Division of Public Assistance has cleared the backlog of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program applications and recertifications submitted prior to June 2023.

SNAP provides what used to be known as food stamp benefits to low-income families to supplement their grocery budget.

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“Our diligent staff deserves a moment to pause and reflect on achieving this milestone,” said Health Commissioner Heidi Hedberg. “While we still have miles to run in this marathon, I can’t overstate how proud I am of their efforts to implement new strategies and continue to find ways to improve the services we provide to Alaskans who need this support to feed themselves and their families.”

First identified as a backlog in the fall of 2022, the strain on the workforce to meet the many requests for benefits had left more than 14,000 Alaskans waiting for an eligibility determination for the program.

That wait was longer than the federal deadline of 30 days, putting a strain on individuals and families as well as on community organizations across the state, and prompting the state to assign additional resources to provide relief.

“The longer an application waits for processing, the longer it takes to complete, based on changes that naturally occur,” explained Deb Etheridge, Division of Public Assistance director. “Now that these priority determinations are completed, our staff can address new applications and recertifications received since June, which we expect to move through much more quickly.”

Clearing the backlog has been Etheridge’s main mission since her appointment as director of the division in January. With support from Gov. Mike Dunleavy, the Legislature and the division’s staff, the division continues to focus on shoring up staffing, increasing training and improving technology. DPA has also “rebooted” its business process, creating a more efficient “one and done” model, Etheridge said.

DPA coordinated with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, the federal agency that oversees the SNAP program – as well as the Food Bank of Alaska and other partners, who combined efforts to help distribute $1.7 million in aid throughout Alaska. “Without all of that effort and your tremendous support, we wouldn’t be out of the backlog,” she said. She further expressed heartfelt gratitude to the employees at DPA, saying “It has been a full-court press with all of our eligibility staff to get this work done.”

To those affected, Etheridge said, “We’re continuing to develop strategies to permanently resolve this situation. I sincerely appreciate everyone’s patience these past few months as we have continued to improve our overall effectiveness.”

Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.


  1. Eliminating soda from the food stamps program would be a net positive and save the state millions a year in bypass mail fees and the rural dental service program. Just sayin

    • SNAP: flour, rice, sugar, cheese, dry milk, fresh produce. Focus upon only the basics (and how to hunt and process from nature). Along with the benefits, require recipients to participate in life skill classes: how to prepare basic foods, how to balance a financial statement, how to budget.
      Giving away freebies only perpetuates the need for more freebies, and eventually it must stop. Rather than setting people up for a hard fall, let’s ease them into independence by teaching the life skills that we used to learn as children both at home and at school (no comment on the useless Anchorage schools underperforming and over budget).

  2. Another form of the old Soviet Union food lines: one line for Potatos, one line for meat, one line for milk, and one line for bread. Lines. Lines. Lines. The Communist idea of keeping order make them wait.

  3. Still not in compliance with federal law. Now get to work on July, August, September applications. Alaskans are waiting for their SNAP benefits.

    “The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (the FNA), requires that households HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY to participate in SNAP within 7 days for expedited cases and 30 days for regular cases. While states agencies are required to process all SNAP applications within the timelines provided in the statute, FNS considers an APT rate of 95 percent and above acceptable performance”
    (g) Normal processing standard —

    (1) Thirty-day processing. The State agency shall provide eligible households that complete the initial application process an opportunity to participate (as defined in § 274.2(b)) as soon as possible, but no later than 30 calendar days following the date the application was filed, except for residents of public institutions who apply jointly for SSI and SNAP benefits prior to release from the institution in accordance with §273.11(i). ‘

  4. Alaska needs to stop paying out the PFD to anybody who has not been a full time resident for at least 10 years & get these career SNAP recipients off the free money too!
    I am not talking about the elderly, the handicapped or folks who truly need the help, just the deadbeats who “work” the system!

    The PFD & the extremely high AK SNAP benefits just draws all the lazy & worthless freeloaders from the lower 48 to our state.

    I have been an Alaska resident 50+ years, I know what I am talking about, I have seen Anchorage change from a safe & friendly city to this mess we have now!

    Stop giving free stuff to the derelicts who work the system, they will move back to where they came from & away from AK!

    • That’s a bit harsh. Times have definitely changed. Now, if you really wanted to fix the problem, eliminate agencies that give basically free narcotics to applicants and stop the illegal drugs from entering our state at the airports. They aren’t coming in any other way, and the government is doing little to stop the flow. Drug addiction is considered a handicap these days and qualifies one for government assistance programs. Get rid of the drugs, get rid of the problem. It is really possible to do in our isolated state.

      • trig you don’t get it do you?
        free stuff includes drugs, food, housing so they don’t have to be productive AK citizens!

        you feed a stray dog, it keeps coming back for more!
        do you get that?

  5. Left unsaid in this article is the glaring fact that when the chips were down and the glaring spotlight of public scrutiny was turned on, our inefficient State Government that had previously denied that the possibility even existed, was able to find many “new strategies and continue to find ways to improve”…..


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