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Emergency Federal Food Assistance Coming To An End In Montana

Graphic: Montana news from Montana Public Radio

The 49,000 Montana households that receive federal food assistance are losing a pandemic-related boost in benefits, although a smaller increase will stay in place through the summer.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture made all participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, eligible for an increase in benefits.

For some, that meant an additional $100 a month or more in emergency allotments.

The boost was tied to states’ emergency declarations. When Gov. Greg Gianforte last month ended Montana’s COVID-19 state of emergency, that specific SNAP boost also ended.

Lorianne Burhop with the Montana Food Bank Network says it’ll be a big hit.

“People are still hurting right now. Housing prices are out of control in most areas of the state. So people are spending 40-50%, if not more, of their income on housing. Gas prices are going up. Food prices are going up,” Burhop says.

Burhop says other states like Colorado and Utah have been granted extended federal funds for the boost in benefits even though their states of emergency have ended.

The Montana Food Bank Network and Montana Budget and Policy Center sent Gianforte a letter asking that he request an extension, as well.

When asked whether the governor’s office would make the request, spokesperson Brooke Stroyke responded that the governor has already authorized the use of federal stimulus dollars to pay for a 15% increase in SNAP benefits through the end of September.

For many, advocates forecast that the 15% increase is a fraction of what the emergency allotments provided.