- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 9, 2018

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The state ombudsman’s investigation into Alaska’s Division of Public Assistance has found that the agency is swamped with applications and has failed to meet state and federal mandates for processing them in a timely manner.

The investigation results released Monday found several major problems causing aggravation for Alaska residents, Alaska Public Media reported .

They have had great difficulty receiving responses to their questions and the division’s processing for long-term care requests is “inefficient and ineffective,” according to the report.

One of the most crucial recommendations in state Ombudsman Kate Burkhart’s report is to add personnel to deal with the communication problems and a backlog of roughly 20,000 applications.

The report said the agency has already been working on many of the issues identified during the investigation, including streamlining its systems for processing applications and making plans to deal with documents more efficiently.

Division Director Monica Windom said eliminating the backlog is unlikely without the addition of dozens of new positions.

Windom said she’s aware that budget cuts in recent years have put an increased focus on reducing state government. The division has been trying various strategies the last couple years and until recently was reluctant to ask for more staff, she said.

“Because we know it’s a tough ask,” Windom said. “We have not made the progress. We do eliminate some of the backlog every month, but we do add to the backlog every month, because just the number of cases are just too high for the staff we have to get the work done.”

It is unclear if the Legislature will fund additional positions requested by Gov. Bill Walker.

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