The Food Bank of Alaska is calling a bill about to be debated in Congress unfair to people who are struggling in our state.

The bill would make changes to the SNAP program, formerly known as food stamps. With few exceptions, the proposal would require able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 59 to get a job or face losing their benefits.

Cara Durr with the Food Bank said food is a basic human right that shouldn't be denied to someone because they aren't working. She said they are particularly concerned about a provision in the bill that would require people in the program to get a job within 30 days or lose their SNAP benefits for a year.

"There are just a whole range of reasons why somebody might need more time to connect with work," said Durr. "And at the end of the day, we don't want to punish them because they aren't able to get a job within a month, which I think we can agree, is a very short timeline to try and find a job."

Another concern is that the bill could have unintended consequences for food pantries, like the one run by Lutheran Social Services in Spenard.

Ryan Chernikoff, who works at the pantry, said any time there's an issue with SNAP benefits, they are over-run with new clients. He said he's not sure if they can handle anymore.

"That already puts a strain on the food pantry as it is," said Chernikoff. "So, if eligibility was cut down, if we saw a decrease in benefits for a lot of our families, I'm really scared as to what would happen."

In the past, Alaska has avoided most work requirements because of a waiver that allows the state to be exempt because of its high unemployment rate. But some say if the proposal is passed as is, that could change.

The Farm Bill still has a ways to go before it could be passed. On Wednesday, members of the House Agricultural Committee are expected to take it up. It still requires a floor vote by the entire House. It's also likely that the Senate will come up with a version of its own.

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