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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

Get a food assistance card in the mail? It could be delayed COVID relief funds

EBT cards from several states
U.S. Department of Agriculture
EBT cards from several states

If you recently received a nutrition assistance card from the state health department you didn’t apply for, you may not want to throw it out. The cards come from a delayed program to help feed students during the summer.

Missoula social worker Katrina Weckenbrock says a card loaded with nearly $400 in nutrition funding for each of her two kids caught her off guard when it came in the mail in early January.

“I was very confused, because I hadn’t applied for anything,” Weckenbrock says. “So, I thought maybe it was a scam or there was a mistake of some sort.”

Department of Public Health and Human Services spokesperson Jon Ebelt says that’s not the case. The cards are part of a pandemic-era summer nutrition program, and are arriving this winter due to reporting delays between schools and the department.

Ebelt says the latest round of cards were automatically sent to about 19,000 families that met income eligibility standards expanded beyond normal state nutrition assistance guidelines.

The health department’s website says the funding came from federal COVID-19 relief intended to help families afford food for children during the summer. Students from almost 100 schools and districts were included in the winter distribution of benefit cards.

Weckenbrock says she wasn’t alone in her confusion and she heard from friends with school-age children who threw the cards away, thinking it was a scam.

The health department says the cards will expire 274 days after issuance. Parents must use their oldest child’s birthdate to activate their nutrition assistance card. If you threw out or misplaced yours, you can call or email the department to request a new one.

Contact the Department of Public Health and Human Services at or by phone at 1-866-850-1556 with questions about the program or to request a new card.

Corrected: February 3, 2023 at 1:00 PM MST
This post has corrected the number listed to contact the state health department with questions about the food assistance program.
Austin graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program in May 2022. He came to MTPR as an evening newscast intern that summer, and jumped at the chance to join full-time as the station’s morning voice in Fall 2022.

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