Groups urge governor to re-enroll in a federally funded nutrition program
Montana food pantries sent a letter to Gov. Greg Gianforte and the state health department asking them to continue administering a pandemic-era nutrition program for students. The program will expire unless the state takes action.
The Montana Food Bank Network says it estimates the state is poised to lose out on $10 million in federal funding for the pandemic electronic benefit transfer program, or P-EBT. States have until the end of September to apply for and distribute the funds.
Montana has participated in the federally funded program since 2020. Congress implemented P-EBT to help families afford food for children when schools shut down and supply chains were disrupted.
Montana Food Bank Network advocacy manager Wren Greaney says the benefits have helped families through high inflation and housing costs spurred on by the pandemic.
“It’s a large amount of grocery benefits that are just going to go toward purchasing food, and families are really going to hurt if they don’t get that support that they could be getting,” Greaney said.
Since 2020, the benefits have been automatically sent to Montana families that meet the program’s income qualifications. The federal government pays the full costs of administering the program to states that enroll.
Health department spokesperson Jon Ebelt said in an email the department has received the letter and is in the process of reviewing it. He added the state distributed more than $97 million loaded on to P-EBT cards from March 2020 to December of last year.
Ebelt did not answer questions about why the state has not yet submitted a plan to continue the program.