Alaska Senate Health and Social Services Committee considers bill for SNAP eligibility expansion


Maddie McCarthy


The Alaska Senate Health and Social Services Committee met on Tuesday to discuss a bill that would expand eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Sen. Cathy Giessel (R-Anchorage) filed Senate Bill 149 in May. If passed, the bill would make Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE) a statewide policy, which would increase income eligibility requirements and remove assets from eligibility consideration.

Alaskan SNAP applicants cannot currently have an income that is more than 130 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). The bill would increase that income limit to 200 percent of the FPL.

Forty-two states and two territories have implemented BBCE

Giessel said the bill would help alleviate some of the SNAP benefit backlog issues the Alaska Division of Public Assistance (DPA) has been dealing with over the last year-and-a-half because it makes eligibility checks easier.

“[BBCE] helps streamline the administrative issues, it decreases the asset test, and just makes it a whole lot easier for the department and for the families to apply,” she said.

Giessel noted that BBCE would ultimately save the state money.

“Not doing this will cost us millions, and we’ll leave people without food.”

— Giessel

DPA Director Deb Etheridge discussed the fiscal notes in the bill, requesting funding for two additional eligibility technician positions in the division. 

Currently, there are 229 eligibility technician positions for benefit application processing. The two additional positions would allow DPA to have an ongoing trainer and quality assurance worker working alongside the eligibility technicians.

“We’re in a position where additional work does really impact us, and the requirement for the ongoing [workers] is because we have a relatively high turnover rate for our eligibility technicians,” Etheridge said. 

“The thought that we can educate and train right now in year one doesn’t really play out in future years … It’s just sort of building the capacity within the division to appropriately administer the program on an ongoing basis.”

Ron Meehan, director of government affairs at the Food Bank of Alaska and manager of the Alaska Food Coalition, highlighted the economic advantage of making sure SNAP is as effective as possible.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates federally that every dollar spent in SNAP benefits generates $1.50 in economic activity,” Meehan said.

Meehan noted that states and territories “already effectively utilizing [BBCE] have proven that it has already been able to help people get out of poverty and ultimately get off the program.”

Milena Sevigny, president of the board of directors at the Food Bank of Alaska, spoke in favor of the bill, and said the removal of asset consideration for SNAP eligibility is particularly important in the state.

“When we talk about some of those communities that live off the road system in the valley—for example, Skwentna, which is up the Yentna River—we have people that live out there who only have access to town by boat or by snow machine. Those folks have to own those modes of transportation to get to town to get food so that means that if they have those extra assets, that could very well disqualify them from SNAP.”

— Sevigny

Sevigny said that even those on the road systems often have to use alternative vehicles like four-wheelers when the roads they have access to are in bad condition. Removing assets from eligibility consideration allows those people to get the benefit.

Ten members of the public volunteered to give testimony supporting the bill at the hearing.

Amendments for SB 149 are due to the committee chair, Sen. David Wilson (R-Wasilla), on Monday.

1 thought on “Alaska Senate Health and Social Services Committee considers bill for SNAP eligibility expansion”

  1. I had a Deli/Bakery downtown Fairbanks. We offered the SNAP program for our small grocery section. It was grossely abused. Snap users would come in and buy chips, peanut butter cup, and an energy drink as their elementary school kid lunch. I Called SNAP and they said it was legal. I quit the program and quit selling all energy drinks because I saw to many of them going to children. My building is on the same block as Golden Towers (retirement state apartments). Most of th residence there receive food boxes every month. They pick goodies out and trash the bulk of the contents. Working with a resident there and a couple of people they would bring over boxes & boxes of food before it made the dumpster. They did their best to get it to people who really needed it. Washington has a program simular that had their own store set up where recipents could go in and get only what they would use. That saved a lot from waste. I would revamp the system to reduce waste and realign nutrition needs before I expanded.


Leave a Comment