Nearly 8,800 Alaskans are still waiting For food stamps since 2022
by CARLOS MATÍAS
The Alaska Division of Public Assistance says it has “cut in half” the number of people experiencing delays in receiving the food assistance they have applied for. The division’s director, Deb Etheridge, feels “very positive” about that. But the 8,794 Alaskans who were still waiting for food stamps as of the end of May, and for which they had applied in 2022, are not be as “positive” as she is. Least of all, knowing that while they wait, Governor Dunleavy’s salary will increase starting July 1.
The Division of Public Assistance says that, if the applications of all those waiting are in the system, there is only one thing for them to do, “wait.” But there are thousands of people, nearly 8,800 (8,794 at the end of May), who “wait” and “wait,” and “despair.” Some of these people have been waiting since August 2022, without receiving a penny of the $800 a month in food stamps or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) they had applied for. The state has processed “thousands of backlogged applications” but those who still do not have SNAP food benefits are also in the thousands. These thousands had to file a class action lawsuit, in May 2022, to get the State of Alaska to commit to halving the backlog by the end of next October. If the State does not comply, the lawsuit will continue.
With new applications for SNAP benefits, an estimated ten thousand people in total will have accumulated. But Deb Etheridge insists the list is down to 8,794 people at the end of last May and that they are “on track.” The State has invested $6.8 million in state and federal funds to hire staff in the Division of Public Assistance. Etheridge says 46 new workers have already been hired and she has another 19 positions on offer. But even so, 20 more hires are still needed.
These and other investments don’t seem to be enough to address the serious shortfalls that Alaskans suffer, and not just in SNAP benefits, but also in Medicaid, and Education. It appears that the State of Alaska is having a hard time finding the money. However, while all these needs persist, the governor did find a way to raise his salary. As of July 1, Mike Dunleavy’s salary will increase to $176,000 per year. And to make his entire team happy, the lieutenant governor will receive $140,000 and the commissioners about $168,000 annually.
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