The social programs in Alaska and Arizona have notable parallels and variations. The federal government supports the needy in all states by six primary services: Medicaid, transitional support programs, general relief help, chronic and urgent medical assistance, and audit public assistance. These services support Americans across a number of networks and departments, including the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration. Individuals who meet the eligibility criteria have the same fundamental right in both state and federally supported public aid programs. Residents who qualify for the program have a right to due process, which implies the right to receive forms of application, face to face interview and receive the benefits with the stipulated time for each program. For example, the Emergency Food Stamp should be available to the recipient within seven days of successful application. Conversely, the current reforms on welfare ensure that eligible candidates have a right to be notified of changes in programs and fair hearing in case the DPA takes an action without an agreement with the recipient. However, differences also exist in both states. This difference is mainly seen in the amount of fund given to recipients, eligibility requirements and the number of state funded programs. This paper will look at the features of welfare benefits in Alaska, and compare them to those provided in Arizona.
Welfare benefits in Alaska
Out of the need to ensure that all citizens have access to basic needs, the federal government came up with a transfer program to ensure all people have access to food, shelter, and healthcare. In Alaska, this program is known as ATAP (Alaska Temporary Assistance Program), which helps low-income individuals with children pay bills by using both federal and state money. This program falls under the larger Federal Temporary Assistance for the Needy Families (TANF). The federal program serves four purposes: to provide assistance to the needy families, prevent and minimize cases of out-of-wedlock pregnancies, encourage the formation of two-parent families, and promote job preparations, work, and marriage as a way of reducing dependency. However, the federal program does not allow residents to receive public assistance for over 60 months. More so, people residing in native villages, especially where unemployment affects more than half of the adults, are exempt from time limitations. To qualify for ATAP: one must be a resident of Alaska, have children below 19 years of age, be pregnant, be in low income level, and be under-employed. According to Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (2015), temporary basis assistance helps families find work and therefore urges participants to find activities that can help develop their skills and talents. Recipients are required to find work within 24 months after receiving their first benefits, and the individual who fails to develop workable family sufficiency plans are penalized. There are other measures to ensure receivers engage in meaningful activity, such as the absence of extra payment for second parent and reduced benefits for families with no housing costs.
Apart from the Alaska Temporary Assistance Program, there are other several welfare benefit enjoyed by residents of Alaska, such as Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the School Breakfast Program (SBP) and the Alaska Weatherization Assistance Program (AWAP). LIHEAP assists people in low income households with home energy bills. It is funded by the federal government and helps residents remain warm during winter and stay cool in summer. This way, the government helps reduce risks of health and safety problems such as illness and eviction. This program offers bill payment assistance, weatherization and energy related repairs, and energy crisis assistance. To qualify for this program, one must be in dire need of financial assistance with energy costs.
The School Breakfast Welfare Program on the other hand is a non-profit breakfast assistance given to schools and residential healthcare institutions. It is administered by the US Department of Agriculture (USAID) Food and Nutrition Services at the federal level. State education agencies administer this program at the state level the while local school food authorities operate it in learning institutions. The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally funded meal assistance that provides nutritionally balanced and low-cost lunches to all children in day schools. The welfare is funded by the federal government and operates in public, nonprofit private schools, and residential child care institutions. In addition, Alaska Weatherization Assistance Program helps insulate homes of low-income people. It mainly targets the elderly, persons with disabilities, high residential energy consumers, households with unbearable energy bills, and families with children as a means to conserve energy and assist residents with insufficient means to access high utility costs.
Comparison of welfare benefit programs in Alaska and Arizona
Both Arizona and Alaska states have implemented Temporary Assistance Program to help needy people meet their basic needs. In both states, the program is designed to offer cash assistance to low income families with children achieve self-sufficiency. Recipients of temporary cash benefit in Alaska and Arizona have a 60 month lifetime benefit limit. Also, both states have established differentiation measures between adults and children, where a child getting TANF benefit can receive another 60 months as an adult. Other than cash assistance, there are other common benefits in both states such as Medicaid and summer food service. Medicaid is federal funded program that helps children, pregnant women, parents, persons with disabilities and the elderly meet their hetahcare needs. Given that is supported by the federal government, the assistance is overseen by the federal Medicaid law and regulations.
To promote school readiness of children below the age of five, both states have adopted Head Start Federal Welfare Program. This benefit is given to children from low income families as a way of enhancing their cognitive patterns, social and emotional development. Head Start ensures there is a conducive learning atmosphere that supports children growth in areas such as literacy and language. This program was designed to help create meaningful child-parent relationships and ensure there is a healthy family-wellbeing. Additionally, the program in both states helps toddlers, infants and pregnant women living below the federal poverty line access decent life. The program can enroll a maximum of 10 percent of children from households that live below poverty line and can serve up to 35 percent additional children from families whose income exceeds the poverty line. Nevertheless both Arizona and Alaska have limited access to funding for the programs, and there may be insufficient space to take care of all eligible children.
While the Start Welfare Program is administered in similar ways in both states, there are notable differences in qualification requirements and amount paid per year. In Alaska, recipients with a household size of one can only get a maximum of $15, 060 per year, while in Arizona the maximum amount is $ 12, 060 (Department of Education & Early Development, 2017). For a household of 2, the maximum amount is $ 20, 290 and $ 25, 520 for a household of three. However, Arizona allows a maximum of $ 16, 240 and $ 20, 420 only for household of two and three respectively. Again, Alaska give s$ 30, 750 for a family of four, $ 35, 980 for a household five and a maximum amount of $ 41, 210 for a household of six. Compared to Arizona, the amount is $24, 600 for a household of four, $ 28, 780 in a family of five and $32 when in a household of six. These figures indicate that the maximum Head Start Benefit in Alaska is higher than in Arizona.
According to statistics on welfare benefits comparison in US states by Washington Post (2011), Alaska had 7 974 recipients of welfare benefits in 2007, while the number dropped to 7, 316 in 2008. In Arizona, the number was 88 235 and 88 781 in 2007 and 2008 respectively. The rate of unemployed residents in Alaska was 6.2 in 2007, and 3.9 in Arizona the same year. The following year, the rate of unemployment in Alaska and Arizona increased to 7.2 and 6.1 respectively, indicating an addition of recipients of welfare benefits due to lack of job. Also, the number recipients of food stamp in Alaska by 2007 was 56,112, while in the following year, the number had increased by 3.5 percent. Similarly, Arizona experienced an increased number of food stamp beneficiaries from 2007 to 2008. An increase from 606 973 to 734 403, which was 21 percent increase.
Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.. (2015). Public assistance. Women’s Legal Rights Handbook
Department of Education & Early Development. (2017). Alaska Head Start. Retrieved from https://www.benefits.gov/benefits/benefit-details/1896
Hopkins, Kyle (2016).Alaska has the highest rate of welfare recipients in the U.S., Census says. Alaska Dispatch News. Retrieved from https://www.adn.com/economy/article/alaska-has-highest-rate-welfare-recipients-us-census-says/2014/09/04/
Washington Post (2011). State-by-State Welfare Assistance. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/01/25/us/20090126-welfare-table.html?_r=0