State to enforce federal work requirements for food stamps

  • By Becky Bohrer
  • Wednesday, August 5, 2015 11:03pm
  • News

JUNEAU — The state of Alaska is planning to enforce federal work requirements that had been suspended for more than a decade, potentially affecting thousands of food stamp recipients.

Since 2004, the state’s unemployment rate had been high enough for a waiver from the work requirements, said Christina Cross, social service program coordinator with the state health department.

But starting Jan. 1, “able-bodied” adults will be limited to three months of food stamps in a 36-month period unless they meet certain criteria, according to a Division of Public Assistance letter sent to beneficiaries in June.

They must work an average of 20 hours a week, participate in an approved job training program for at least 20 hours a week or do a combination of both to receive food stamps beyond that limit, the letter said.

The agency defines able-bodied adults as those between 18 and 49 years of age who are not disabled and have no dependents living with them.

There are some exemptions, such as for people in drug or alcohol programs or those who are medically unable to work.

The state has requested a waiver from the requirement for all areas of Alaska except for Anchorage, Cross said Wednesday. An area needs to show a 24-month average unemployment rate 20 percent above the national average to qualify for a waiver and Anchorage did not meet that criterion, she said.

A decision on the state’s request is expected soon, she said.

In Anchorage, an estimated 3,000 food stamp recipients could be subject to the work requirements, though Cross called that a best guess until individual assessments are done.

Some people can work quite a few hours in a minimum wage job and still not be able to pay their bills and meet their food needs, she said.

“We understand the importance of having food stamps there to help assist them with paying (for) their groceries,” she said.

The goal is to try to ensure that those subject to the work requirements have an opportunity to be working or part of a job program, Cross said.

About 87,000 people receive food stamp benefits in Alaska, health department spokeswoman Sarana Schell said by email.

Letters discussing the work requirements were mailed to every household receiving benefits, about 36,000. Cross said the department wanted to provide recipients as much information as possible even if it might not end up applying to them.

Since the department has not had to enforce the requirement in years, it has had to reprogram its system and retrain staff, Cross said.

Participants in the food stamp program who aren’t exempt are subject to certain work requirements as a condition of eligibility, such as accepting suitable work if offered.

Able-bodied adults without dependents must meet additional requirements to continue receiving benefits beyond three months, according to information provided by Cross.

More in News

Linda Galloway, of Kenai, fills out her absentee ballot at Kenai City Hall on Wednesday. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Questions on casting your ballot?

There are 12 days left until th Nov. 3 general election.

Kenai librarian Bethany McMilin demonstrates how to use Lynda.com, an online learning resource available for free through the public library system, at the Kenai Community Library on March 13, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Community Library goes late fee-free

The Kenai Community Library will no longer charge daily late fees for materials.

COVID-19. (Courtesy of CDC).
DHSS reports more than 200 new cases for fifth time this week

The statewide alert level, based on the average daily case rate for the last two weeks, is high.

Kenai City Hall on Feb. 20, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai City Council discusses COVID-19, emphasizes diligence

Growing infection numbers, increased case rates and mask compliance were all discussed.

File
file
Free flu shots available Saturday

Shots will be available Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the lot of Kenai Central High School.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, bottom right, participates in a press conference via Zoom videoconferencing along with members of his public health team on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. Top left: Jamie Hartung, interpreter; top right: Heidi Hedburg, director of Public Health; center left: Dr. Joe McLaughlin, chief of the Alaska Section of Epidemiology at the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services; center right: Adam Crum, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services; bottom left: Dr. Anne Zink, chief medical officer; bottom right: Gov. Mike Dunleavy. (Screenshot by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
‘We always knew that virus cases were going to rise’

In first press conference in almost two months, Dunleavy addresses recent virus surge

This graphic shows the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District risk levels associated with different numbers of new COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy Kenai Peninsula Borough School District)
High case counts to keep schools remote for another week

Central and southern peninsula schools to continue remote learning through Oct. 28

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State reports 204 new cases, 15 on the peninsula

The statewide alert level, based on the average daily case rate for the last two weeks, is high.

Most Read