Future federal funding for a key nutritional program helping thousands of Alaskans in need remains in doubt due to the partial government shutdown, according to state authorities.

The state doesn’t have any funds awaiting distribution under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program according to Shawnda O’Brien, director of Alaska's Division of Public Assistance.

SNAP’s latest disbursement, $12 million sent to about 33,000 Alaska households, was originally scheduled to be available by Feb. 1 – but federal officials told the state to issue it prematurely, with the funds released Jan. 20.

“They had to get the money out before the end of January, otherwise it wouldn’t have been available,” O’Brien said.

Beyond this week, however, the state is still waiting to hear about funding for March and beyond of what SNAP’s website under the U.S. Department of Agriculture deems “the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net.”

“Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where we’re at,” O’Brien said. “We’re waiting for further information.”

Division staff are participating in regular nationwide teleconferences with USDA officials, hoping to hear word of any change in the program’s status. O’Brien commended program participants for not providing inaccurate details to SNAP’s participants in Alaska.

“Some states are experiencing situations where grocery stores are giving outdated information to people,” O’Brien said. “So far we’ve done a pretty good job of communicating the information to our vendors.”

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