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Montana will accept federal funding for the summertime feeding of school-age children



Montana – The state of Montana has reversed its previous approach and approximately 170,000 children will have a better shot at full tummies this next summer in the Treasure State after the state refused to take comparable monies to feed starving kids last year.

According to the Montana Free Press, following Democratic criticism of the state’s rejection of comparable funding this past summer, Montana has decided to take part in the federal Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer program (Summer EBT) starting in June 2024.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) cited a “significant administrative burden for what was meant to be a temporary program” as the reason why the state decided not to apply for $10 million through the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program in July. A spokesperson for DPHHS previously told the Daily Montanan that this decision was made.

However, DPHHS announced a collaboration with the Office of Public Instruction on Thursday, November 9, 2023, to provide school-age children with meals throughout the summer.

In a statement, Representative Laura Smith, a Democrat from Helena, who spoke at a demonstration on the Capitol grounds this summer pleading for the state to accept the P-EBT payments, said the decision made on Thursday was long overdue.

“It’s well past time the Governor stood up for hungry kids in our state, especially after rejecting ten million dollars last summer that would have fed 50,000 children in communities all across the state,” Smith said. “Montana Democrats and folks in our communities have urged this administration to stop playing political games on the backs of Montana kids. We are heartened that they finally listened.”

Democrats at the July event claimed that OPI’s Summer Food Service Program, which was funded in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and provided food for schoolchildren at specific locations, was insufficient.

When schools are closed for the summer, low-income families with school-age children can use the Summer EBT program to have cash accepted at food retailers. According to the DPHHS release, families will start receiving $40 per eligible child in the summer of 2024 throughout the months of June, July, and August.

According to USDA data, the program promotes healthier diets and reduces the number of children experiencing food insecurity by one-third.

“The Summer EBT program is another tool that families can use when school doors are closed,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen in a statement. “I look forward to this continued partnership with DPHHS as our agencies have successfully implemented similar programs such as Medicaid Direct Certification.”

The state’s intention to participate was communicated to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, according to DPHHS. The agency has until February 15 to submit a program management plan.

Who is eligible?

Summer EBT is available to approximately 170,000 kids in Montana who are eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals via the School Breakfast Program (SBP) and National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

Children who meet the following criteria are among the eligible students:

• Attend an NSLP/SBP participating school and have been certified as eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.
• Attend an NSLP/SBP participating Community Eligibility Provision school and are directly certified.
• Attend an NSLP/SBP participating school but are not certified either by application or direct certification and are certified by an application.
• Do not attend an NSLP/SBP participating school but are able to be directly certified.
• Families with children who attend a NSLP and SBP school who are not currently receiving free or reduced-price meal benefits but want to participate in Summer EBT should contact their school about completing an application.

As the program’s lead agency, DPHHS will monitor program reporting to FNS, handle card usage, investigate client fraud concerns, and issue EBT cards.

OPI will design and oversee the application procedure, check eligibility, and communicate with clients.





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