Alaska News

Alaska rolls out online food stamp application, hoping to reduce delays amid backlog

Alaskans applying for food stamps for the first time will now be able to access an online application as part of an effort to improve efficiencies at the Alaska Division of Public Assistance, which has been experiencing major backlogs for more than a year.

The new online application, which launched this week on the division’s website, takes an average of 20 minutes to complete, said Deb Etheridge, the division’s director.

It can be used both on a desktop computer or a phone. She said the hope is that it will make it easier for Alaskans to apply to the program, and faster for state workers to process their applications.

The previous version of the application, which was 28 pages long and needed to be printed or picked up in person, often took up to an hour to complete, she said. In nearly half of all cases, those applications would later be marked by state workers as incomplete due to missing information or incorrectly submitted paperwork, Etheridge said.

The new application will prompt users to upload all the required paperwork before they’re able to submit their application. It will also allow users to skip questions that aren’t relevant to them, speeding up the process.

“So not only are we getting complete applications, but we’re getting all the necessary verifications that are needed, so that we can just pick up the case and make a determination,” Etheridge said.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is a federally funded program that provides food benefits to low-income households, and is colloquially known as food stamps. In Alaska, more than 92,000 people participate in the program, including more than 30,000 children.


The new online application comes at a time that state is working through more than 8,000 backlogged recertifications and applications for the program, meaning many Alaskans who qualify for food aid have been waiting months to receive those benefits.

The backlogs have had particularly dire impacts in rural Alaska, and have been linked to growing food insecurity and hunger in the state and increased reliance on food banks and pantries, which are not equipped to meet need of this scale.

They’ve prompted sharp warnings from the federal government, a class-action lawsuit, and a changeover in leadership at the state division.

The delays have also extended to other forms of public assistance the state pays out, including Medicaid, benefits for seniors, and help with heating and utilities.

[As food insecurity rises, Alaska aid groups say $4.5M in assistance can’t come soon enough]

Etheridge said that so far, online applications are currently only available for SNAP and for Medicaid. Applying to the other assistance programs would still require Alaskans to complete the 28-page paper application, though the state hoped to have more online forms available eventually, she said.

Many Alaskans qualify for more than one program, which means some Alaskans will need to spend time filling out multiple applications.

Etheridge also said that applications are being processed by the date they’re received, and that Alaskans currently stuck in the backlog wouldn’t speed up the process by reapplying online.

Alaskans who have been waiting for more than 30 days for the state to process their application for SNAP or other public assistance benefits can file a Fair Hearing request to help expedite the process.

For help filing that request, local nonprofit Alaska Legal Services Corp. can be reached via their website, or by calling 1-888-478-2572.

To apply for SNAP online and learn whether you qualify, visit

Annie Berman

Annie Berman is a reporter covering health care, education and general assignments for the Anchorage Daily News. She previously reported for Mission Local and KQED in San Francisco before joining ADN in 2020. Contact her at