JUNEAU – Rep. Genevieve Mina has introduced a crucial piece of legislation aimed at enhancing the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). House Bill 196 simplifies the SNAP process by enacting broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE): expanding access to SNAP benefits for working, low-income Alaskans while reducing the administrative burden on the Division of Public Assistance. This legislation also aligns with the Governor’s “Families First” initiative by alleviating food insecurity and hunger for thousands of Alaska families and seniors.
BBCE encourages SNAP participants to work and save for the future without facing a “benefits cliff.” First, it raises the gross income eligibility for SNAP from 130% to 200% of the federal poverty level, allowing more low-income working families with significant expenses (e.g., childcare, cost of living, etc.) to access food assistance. Second, it eliminates the household asset test, improving the self-sufficiency of Alaskans by ensuring households can have modest savings without losing access to SNAP.
Since late 2022, thousands of Alaskans have faced unacceptable wait times accessing SNAP benefits due to the expiration of pandemic flexibilities, outdated technology, severe workforce shortages, and restrictive eligibility criteria. Under HB 196, Alaska would join 44 other U.S. jurisdictions (41 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the Virgin Islands) in adopting BBCE.
“I am thankful for the work that Governor Dunleavy, the Department of Health, and the Legislature have done to address the SNAP backlog,” said Representative Genevieve Mina (D-Anchorage). “Now is the time to enact structural changes to the SNAP process to ensure all Alaskans have timely access to the food they need to survive and thrive.”
“A growing number of Alaskans are hungry,” said Representative Donna Mears (D-Anchorage). “With this bill we take one step towards improving people’s access to the food they need.”
SNAP is 100% federally funded and designed to help individuals and families struggling to afford adequate food. Research has shown that SNAP reduces poverty, improves health outcomes, and improves children’s academic performance. Expanding access to SNAP by implementing BBCE is a win for government efficiency, Alaska’s economy, and working families.