GREAT FALLS, Mont. - Throughout the pandemic, a federal boost in SNAP benefits put a little more food on the table for thousands of struggling families. However, that aid increase will soon drop as Montana's State of Emergency comes to an end.
Depending on your income and household size, a policy analyst tells Montana Right Now families may see a 35% cut in the help they get.
"They are [currently] receiving $2.52 per meal per person, so it’s a really modest-to-small benefit" said Jackie Semmens with the Montana Budget & Policy Center (MBPC). “After the cut, that would be decreased to $1.60 per person per meal.”
She explains the extra money first came around early last year as a way of helping anyone going through uncertain situations.
"We saw people losing their jobs, schools shutting down,” said Semmens. “It made it really difficult for people to access the nutrition that they needed."
While the Montana has made progress against the COVID-19 pandemic, Semmen says factors like rising costs from disrupted production lines make food insecurity a prominent issue.
"84,000 adults in Montana say that adults in their household didn't have enough food to eat. That's 12% of adults in our state,” she said. “We're back to normal in a lot of ways, but for many families they're still struggling with job losses, a lack of childcare."
If you're going through tough times yourself, the Great Falls Food Bank encourages you to find help in your area, no matter your situation.
"There's food available for the hungry in Great Falls. There are places you can go. Don't let pride get in the way. There's no reason why anybody should be hungry in Great Falls Montana in the Summer of 2021," said Executive Director Shaun Tatarka.
In an email from Governor Gianforte's office, Press Secretary Brooke Stroyke writes:
“As authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act, the state is continuing some expanded SNAP benefits through October 1. The ARPA Health Advisory Commission recommended, and the governor in turn approved, a 15% increase in SNAP benefits for all SNAP households from July through September 2021. Montanans have already begun receiving details about the updated benefit structure.”
With the extra federal funds ending in August, the Montana Dept. of Health & Human Services tells MRN they've sent out emails to affected families about this state increase and how it affects their own situations. You can find an example of one below:
So far, MRN hasn’t received an answer from the governor’s office after asking about whether they tried reaching out to the USDA for possibly continuing expanded SNAP benefits.
MBPC is a nonprofit organization focused on providing credible and timely research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues that impact low- and moderate-income Montana families.