Food stamps: Applying for Alaska SNAP benefits could get easier in 2023

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In this Aug. 26, 2011 photo, a sign notifies customers that EBT can be used at a store in Sioux Falls, S.D. House and Senate negotiators are set to begin crafting a compromise farm bill, including cuts to the food stamp program. The talks open Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, just two days before food stamp recipients will see a separate, unrelated cut in their monthly benefits. (AP Photo/The Argus Leader, Jay Pickthorn) Jay Pickthorn

Food stamps: Applying for Alaska SNAP benefits could get easier in 2023

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Alaska residents could gain access to an easier process for applying for food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program thanks to a bill introduced in the state legislature.

Democratic state Rep. Genevieve Mina introduced a bill at the end of the legislative session in May that would streamline applications for SNAP benefits and ease requirements. Under the bill, those who qualify for other kinds of benefit programs already would automatically be eligible for SNAP benefits, according to Alaska Public Media.

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“I think that broad-based categorical eligibility is a great approach to address a lot of the structural issues in the SNAP program in the long term,” Mina told APM. “It’s not going to be a fix for the current backlog that we’re facing.”

“But even if we are able to remove one component of the application process, which is the asset test, I think that also will help folks at DPA and our eligibility techs be able to approve applications on a more streamlined basis,” the representative said.

This type of eligibility is called broad-based categorical eligibility — a policy that Alaska and a handful of states do not use. In the 44 states and territories that do use it, households that do not meet the requirements for BBCE can apply for food stamps under regular program rules, according to the federal Department of Agriculture.

The Division of Public Assistance, which oversees benefit programs, is making strides to reduce the number of Alaska residents waiting a significant amount of time to receive their benefits. However, it does not have enough staff to handle all of the applications, Director Deb Etheridge said.

Mina said her proposed bill could alleviate caseloads for division employees and help retain staff in the long run.

SNAP benefits are calculated based on household income and size. The recipient’s household income generally must be at or below 130% of the poverty line. In fiscal 2023, the poverty line used to calculate SNAP benefits is $1,920 a month.

Mina’s bill proposes increasing the eligibility threshold to 200% of the federal poverty line.

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“This would incentivize people to have modest savings that they can’t really do in the SNAP program,” Mina said. “We’re also incentivizing Alaskans to be more self-sufficient by allowing them to have savings without getting kicked off the program. I think that also helps our workforce and our economy.”

An average monthly SNAP benefit for a household of three is $577, with a maximum of $740. An average payment for a household of eight is $1,150, with a maximum of $1,691. Any household higher than eight can be calculated by adding a maximum of $211 per additional person.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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