Additional Resources to Provide Relief for SNAP Households

Juneau, Alaska (KINY) – The Alaska Department of Health is taking steps to provide immediate relief to Alaskans who receive support from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“This is an all-hands-on moment,” Commissioner Heidi Hedberg said. “We must work together so Alaskans get the benefits they need.”

Governor Mike Dunleavy said, “These immediate actions, including assistance to state food banks, are to ensure Alaskans can close the gap and know what to expect. This support will help stock Alaskans’ pantries while SNAP recertifications are processed.”

Governor Dunleavy has outlined the following plan:


    1. To address immediate needs while longer-term solutions are implemented, the Governor announced $1.68 million will be distributed through the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, Alaska Food Bank, Kenai Peninsula Food Bank and the Food Bank of Southeast Alaska, to the 150 food pantries across the state. The money will be used to buy bulk groceries to stock food pantries, money cards to be used at local grocery stores to buy food, and support some school lunch programs while recertifications and new applications are processed.

    2. The Division of Public Assistance (DPA) has also completed programming to automatically transfer SNAP benefits for Alaskans whose benefits were scheduled to be redeterminated in February, March, and April 2023. This will provide additional time for staff to work with late work.

  2. WITHIN 90 DAYS:

    1. Recruitment and incorporation of additional personnel to fill new and vacant positions.

    2. As an intermediate step, the Division of Public Assistance has a temporary contract to increase the staff in the Virtual Contact Center (VCC). The contractor is recruiting and training the staff.

    3. The DPA is implementing contracts to increase IT support.


    1. Governor Dunleavy added $54 million in the capital budget to migrate DPA’s legacy system to a modern integrated eligibility enrollment system.

    2. Programming is underway to transition the SNAP certification period from 6 months to 12 months for all participants with an expected launch date of July 2023.

    3. The Department plans to launch an online SNAP application by the end of the calendar year.

The division has been coordinating its efforts with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, the federal agency that oversees the SNAP program, to seek long-term solutions to meet required SNAP processing timelines. Division director Deb Etheridge said they are considering all options to reduce processing times. “This is an extraordinary situation and we are prepared to do whatever it takes,” Etheridge said. “It is important to understand that the improvement process is constantly evolving, with the goal of obtaining benefits for eligible Alaskans.”

The division has filled 71 open positions since November 2022. There are 31 new employees undergoing training. It will take several months for the new staff to be fully trained to support the workflow. However, because newly hired staff are first trained to collect information, this support will allow more experienced eligibility technicians to focus on the final determination. “These changes will give our staff time to catch up,” Etheridge said, noting that the division has overcome similar challenges in the past.

Hedberg expressed gratitude for the community partners who have been active in helping individuals and families meet their needs locally, especially agencies like the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, Alaska Food Bank, Alaska Food Bank, Kenai Peninsula, the Southeast Alaska Food Bank, and other food pantries throughout the state. Alaskans in need can use Alaska 2-1-1 as a way to connect with the variety of resources available in the community. “We encourage our community partners to update their information and add any resources they can offer our neighbors and families today,” Hedberg said.

The Division of Public Assistance’s Virtual Contact Center is staffed 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday, and is available statewide at 800-478-7778. Callers can select an option to check the status of their case through the automated program information line at any time. News, forms, and information are available on the Division of Public Assistance website at