Ten Alaskans are suing the state, alleging it has failed to issue food stamps within the time frame required by federal law. The complaint he was filed Friday in Superior Court in Anchorage against Alaska Health Commissioner Heidi Hedberg. The lawsuit alleges that as the head of a department that failed to provide essential services, Mr. Hedberg “has caused and continues to starve thousands of Alaskans.”
Some families have waited as long as four months to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as food stamps, the complaint says. Without these benefits, people will look for other ways to get food or to make food last longer.
“We have people who depend on their relatives. We have people who depend on food. We have people who are eating less to feed their children, trying to juggle their bills and decide whether to pay for their heat or their food,” said Saima Akhtar, senior attorney at the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, one of the companies representing the plaintiffs. in this case.
“People are taking different measures as they can to take care of their families and eat right now, and it shouldn’t be difficult,” Akhtar said.
The complaint said the delay was caused by “delays and confusion on the part of the Alaska Department of Health,” and pointed to the “gross instability of unresolved SNAP claims that have left thousands of Alaskans without food assistance during Alaska’s coldest months.” year.”
While 10 Alaskans are named in the class action suit – residents of Anchorage, Marshall, Petersburg, Wasilla, Bethel, Palmer, Nome and Delta Junction – they represent thousands of other Alaskans facing the same problem.
Under federal law, the Department of Health must provide SNAP benefits to those who qualify within 30 days of the hiring date. Families who are eligible for expedited processing should receive their benefits within seven days of the application being issued. Some families have been waiting months, the complaint said.
The lawsuit asked the court to find that the Alaska Department of Health violated the federal SNAP Act and violated federal and state laws. The court wants the court to order the health department to process people’s requests for SNAP and certificates within the time frame required by state law, to allow people to apply and receive benefits on the first day they contact the agency, and to ensure that there is enough. language translation services and translation of documents for those who need them.
Instead, Mr. Akhtar said, the grant is asking the government to “do what it is legally required to do by running the program in accordance with government guidelines.”
Critics don’t want to spend money.
“They want to be fed,” Akhtar said. “And they also have the opportunity to try and change the system so that this does not happen again, so that their families and their children and communities do not go hungry again.”
In an email on Friday, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said, “The Commissioner and DOH cannot comment on the complaint or the lawsuit because we have not seen the complaint or the filing of the lawsuit.” The spokeswoman did not immediately respond to other questions about the backlog or what caused it, or the availability of language translation services for SNAP programs and forms.
Chairman of the Senate Health and Social Services Committee Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, said his committee will hear from the Department of Health about food stamp refunds at its meeting on Tuesday, January 24.
It’s a big issue, he said: “We’re talking about, you know, people’s food… It’s a public health issue.”
“We want to know, in fact, what can we do in Parliament to help you fix this problem and how quickly can it be solved?” And those are the challenges I want to focus on,” Wilson said.
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