Joint Statement from Food Bank of Alaska and the Alaska Food Coalition

ANCHORAGE, May 23,  2017 – The president’s FY 2018 budget includes major cuts and harmful changes to the most important nutrition programs for thousands of Alaskans who live in households that have been left behind in the nation’s ongoing economic recovery.

The budget proposes $193 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) over 10 years. These cuts – which would slash SNAP by an unprecedented 25 percent – and structural changes will dismantle a proven and effective program that provides a path out of hunger and poverty, and leads to improved diet, learning, productivity, and health.

Cuts to SNAP would be detrimental for the 85,000 Alaskans on SNAP – including children, seniors, working families, veterans, and more. SNAP is a proven and effective program that are vital to ensuring that struggling Alaskans get the nutrition they need for their health and well-being. While Alaska is experiencing economic hardship, SNAP is a critical resource for families and individuals struggling financially and at risk of going hungry – whether it’s due to losing their job, experiencing a healthcare emergency, or managing a long-term disability.

The biggest hit to Alaska in this proposal is the new state cost-sharing requirement designed to create cuts to both benefits and eligibility. In this proposal, Alaska would be required to contribute $306 million over 10 years. This change would be detrimental for Alaska, because it would eliminate the state’s ability to respond to economic downturns – like the one Alaska is in now.

The president’s budget proposal also revokes state’s abilities to apply for a waiver that allows more time for unemployed and underemployed adults (ABAWDs) in boroughs with high unemployment rates to find work before they are no longer able to receive benefits. The budget should instead be focusing on creating a system that offers adequate job and job-training opportunities.

Other damages to SNAP in the budget proposal include: capping benefits for larger households; eliminating the minimum benefit (disproportionately harming seniors); make an eligibility “cliff” worse by prohibiting states from assisting working poor families with incomes over 130 percent of poverty; and creating fees for retailers to participate in the program, likely driving small retailers in rural communities out of SNAP.

The budget also makes cuts to other nutrition programs, including the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) – Food Bank of Alaska’s largest source of food to serve rural Alaskans. The proposed $27 million in cuts to the program would mean 33 million fewer meals distributed in FY2018 nationwide. Alaskan communities with disproportionately high food prices and transportation challenges will be hardest hit by this proposal.

Gutting SNAP will have a devastating ripple effect on Alaskans in rural, and urban areas alike. Soup kitchens, churches, and food pantries do not have the capacity to fill the hunger gap this proposal will create. SNAP provides 10 times more meals than the entire Feeding America network of food banks, and we need to protect the structure and funding of the program.

Food Bank of Alaska and the Alaska Food Coalition will be working with organizations and advocates around the state to urge Congress to prevent these cuts. It must protect these proven and effective programs from harmful changes and barriers to access. Congress must also demand greater investments in comprehensive solutions that provide low-income Americans with opportunities for a better future – but not by kicking them off these essential programs first.

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For more information, please contact Cara Durr, Director of Public Engagement (cdurr@foodbankofalaska.org) or Sarra Khlifi, Alaska Food Coalition Program Manager (afc@foodbankofalaska.org)