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USDA Asks Alaska and Other States To Keep Up With Food Aid

USDA issued warnings to Alaska and other states in the U.S. to keep up with the food assistance programs.

February 17, 2024

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sent a letter to all state Governors urging them to take steps to ensure that their state programs issue benefits on time and in the correct amount as Alaska continues to deal with a backlog of food aid applications.

Alaska is not alone to struggle with the federal requirements for operating the food aid programs. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program also known as food stamps ensures that all Americans have access to basic nutrition.

Tom Vilsack noted that the SNAP Program is performing below the national standard and there are no signs of its improvement.

Tom Vilsack wrote, “States should consider all options available under current law —such as assigning the longest certification periods allowed for the household or streamlining verification — to reduce the burden on clients and to increase staff time available for reducing backlogs and focusing on accurate and timely case processing”.

Vilsack continued, “Americans in need should have access to essential benefits without unnecessary delays. People should not lose access to food because States are unable to review their applications in a timely fashion. States must deliver benefits in the right amounts, to the right individuals, and in the required periods of time”.

Alaska also received a warning from USDA last week which was unique to the situation in Alaska. Thousands of people in Alaska continue to wait on food stamps as the Department of Health is working on the backlog that came to light in 2022.
State employees in Alaska have successfully decreased a backlog of over 12,000 individuals to just under 2,500.

In his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, Governor Mike Dunleavy has allocated an additional $8.8 million for hiring permanent staff for the Division of Public Assistance, which oversees the SNAP program. Additionally, he has proposed $5 million in funding for food pantries, which have faced overwhelming demand due to the thousands of Alaskans who have been without benefits.

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Stremple Claire. “USDA puts pressure on Alaska, other states to keep up with food aid”. Chilkat Valley News, February 17, 2024,
https://www.chilkatvalleynews.com/2024/02/17/usda-puts-pressure-on-alaska-other-states-to-keep-up-with-food-aid/

Last Updated: September 20, 2021