Fast-tracking relief for SNAP among latest supplemental budget recommendations

One provision moves millions of dollars from Medicaid programs into the Division of Public Assistance
Fast-tracking these recommendations help address challenges that have emerged since the budget was first appropriated to meet timely needs.
Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 7:36 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - The Senate Finance committee hosted the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Neil Steininger, and listened to testimony from the Director of the Division of Public Assistance, Deb Etheridge, to learn more about H.B. 79, the governor’s amendments to the fiscal year 2023 and 2024 budgets.

One of the issues discussed at the hearing was the backlog in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) funding, which has been a pressing issue for months. Part of the solution to the multifaceted problem impacting families across the state is to move $3 million from Medicaid into the DPA to beat the backlog.

According to Etheridge, there are approximately 2,000 cases left for the DPA to process.

“With a dedicated team of individuals working on our SNAP recertification backlog,” Etheridge stated, “We anticipate we’ll be out of that backlog within this next two months.”

Steininger stressed the importance of this move, as looming Medicaid and benefits recertification will take away from the staff available to work through the backlog, but won’t impact the functionality of Medicaid itself.

In addition to public assistance programs, the hearing also evaluated how state and matching federal funds help close the gaps between current funding needs versus projected needs of the Department of Administration’s legal and advocacy services.

Steininger explained why the department is requesting support so late into the session: “Because of changes to criminal statute, and to clear out the backlog of trials coming out of COVID,” he said.

“As courts reopen trials, there is a large backlog that is driving a large amount of work that the Public Defender Agency and Office of Public Advocacy found they weren’t able to accommodate within their existing resources,” Steininger added.

The ability to fast-track funding or legislation to address urgent issues is a power that the governor has every year.

Without any objections, the bill will continue on to the next phase of the legislative process.