Written by Sonya Kamell
The program assists Alaska residents in low income situations buy healthy groceries and, in some cases, certain hunting and fishing subsistence supplies.
This beneficial arrangement is a combination of federal and state funds to support households that are struggling in today's economy. Food stamp benefits are issued by the Division of Public Assistance through the Alaska Quest Card, an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. It is part of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The amount of financial assistance allotted per household varies based on factors such as size of household and the household's countable income. The gross monthly income eligibility is rated on 130% of Alaska's poverty standard.
The government has allowed for some special benefits in rural parts of Alaska, such as higher benefits and the use of the Quest Card to to purchase some hunting and fishing supplies.
A variety of stores and farmer's markets are authorized throughout Alaska to accept the Quest Card so that all Alaska residents have access to good nutrition.
With the internet, it is convenient and easy to search for participating Farmer's Markets> and grocery stores. Search the SNAP Retailer Locator using your zip code, whether it be for Delta Junction, Fairbanks, the Kenai Peninsula, or elsewhere, and find what is available for program members.
You may also call the EBT/Quest Helpdesk toll free at 1-888-620-1111 (outside of Juneau) and 465-3047 (in Juneau) for further assistance on finding a cooperating retail location near you.
Food Stamp Benefits are available to improve nutrition for Alaska's people. So, items that can be bought with food stamp benefits are generally categorized as all food and food products intended to be eaten by people. Pet food and bird seed are not included in that list. However, ingredients such as pectin, spices herbs used for preserving food are included, and even some nutritional supplements like brewers yeast. For the elderly and disabled food stamp members, prepared and delivered meals can be purchased from authorized providers.
There are some limitations also. You cannot purchase items with your food stamp benefits such as alcohol, tobacco products, toilet paper, medicine, canning jars, fertilizer, and prepared meals to be eaten in store. This is not an exhaustive list. Make sure to always check back with the official site.
You can even use your Quest (EBT) card to withdraw cash from specific ATMs with no surcharge. Note that according to federal law, Quest (EBT) cards can not be used at ATMs located in bars, liquor stores, gambling or adult entertainment enterprises.
In the spirit of the motto, "Give a man a fish, and he can eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he can eat for a lifetime," and with respect for the self-sufficient lifestyle of many Alaska residents, the Alaska Food Stamps Program has included items to assist with subsistence hunting and fishing on the ‘can buy' list in specific remote areas of Alaska. A specially marked identification card is issued to those who qualify.
In certain remote areas of Alaska subsistence hunting and fishing items may be purchased with food stamp benefits. Eligible households are given a specially marked identification card. Regardless of cost, none of these items can be bought on credit, and must be provided to buyer immediately upon purchase.
This is not an exhaustive list, but purchasable items include hooks, fishing line, nets, and harpoons. Some of the items that cannot be bought using the Quest card include gasoline and oil, explosives, clothing, shelter, and transportation.
There are a few basic guidelines to be eligible for Food Stamp Benefits. Applicants need proof of Alaska residency, U.S. Citizenship, or proof of qualified legal alien status, and everyone in the household must have applied for a Social Security number. Age is not a defining factor, but a household is defined as 1) a parent with children 21 or younger living together, 2) a minor who lives on his/her own, or 3) individuals who share the same residency and prepare food and eat together.
If you are able to work and between the age of 16-59, the state of Alaska requires the applicant to be in the process of becoming self-sufficient, for example, by joining the Employment & Training Program if available, to apply for jobs and accept offers, and not to quit employment you do have.
College students need to show proof they are working half time or participating in work-study programs, providing childcare, or only on Temporary Assistance.
Any drug-related felony charges will automatically block your acceptance into the Food Stamp Program, but minors dependent on you may be eligible to apply.
The application will consider your resources, such as cash on hand, stocks and bonds, property not up for sale. It does not include your home or vehicles used for income and family transportation.
The screening includes looking at countable income such as wages, unemployment, worker's compensation, etc., but not scholarships, school loans, Native dividends, and the like. Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends are also a special case.
There are also deductions based on income, number of household members, medical expenses, and shelter.
So, here is a loose idea of the screening criteria: the number of household, the net income and the location. Generally, the more people in one household, with a lower net income, and in a rural area, the higher the food stamps benefit. For example,
Once the income and household size factors are determined, the maximum monthly food stamp benefit allowed would then be divided between three categories: Urban, Rural I and Rural li. So, for example, a household of 5 would get a maximum of $896 in Urban, $1143 in Rural I, and $1391 in Rural li.
You can get an idea immediately of your eligibility for the program by taking this online self-screening tool. This is not an official proof of acceptance but is very helpful.
Questions will be split between money coming in, and money going out. These may include:
You may print the application form, fill it in, and take the application along with supporting documents to the DHS office nearest you in person, or mail or fax it in. Here is the contact information for the DHS offices in Alaska. The main offices are in Fairbanks and Anchorage. You may also call the Alaska State Information/Hotline Number, which is (907) 465-3347.
Another way to stretch your dollar is to find and redeem grocery coupons in stores in your hometown. Grocery Coupon Network has a wide range of stores who accept our coupons.
If you're new to couponing, take a moment and learn how to be an efficient coupon user.
It's time for your household to eat healthy and not be so stressed financially! Use a combination of coupons and the food stamp benefits on your Quest card, and see how much is left in your wallet at the end of the month. Search your favorite store circular for coupons that fit what you need, and use your Food Stamps Benefits for the other necessary food items.
Whenever you go grocery shopping, don't forget to take your Alaska Quest Card!
Alaska's leaders believe the best person to help you is yourself. Get the support and training you want to do the jobs you want so ultimately you can provide for your household. Consider becoming part of the Alaska Temporary Assistance Program (ATAP).
To health, and a strong America, use the benefits and tools available to you. Cheers to a long and happy life!
Video: How to Use a Coupon Organizer to Save TimeUse a Coupon Organizer to make couponing easier. Step up from envelopes and get serious about organizing to save time and headaches.
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