Montanans to See Decrease in SNAP Benefits - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Montanans to See Decrease in SNAP Benefits

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MISSOULA -

More than 129,000 low-income Montanans will have fewer dollars to feed their families this winter.

A temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- formerly the food stamps program -- ends on November 1.

The temporary boost to SNAP benefits was part of a 2009 federal stimulus law, intended to strengthen the economy.

This winter, as that dollar increase ends, SNAP benefits will decrease by $13 million across the state.

Missoula Food Bank Community Relations Director, Jessica Allred, said 15% of the 17,000 clients last year used the food bank because their SNAP benefits had run out that month.

"SNAP is probably the single most fundamental program that directly impacts low income households' ability to access adequate nutrition," Allred said.

Allred said currently in Missoula, more than 15,000 people are paying for groceries with SNAP money, which equates to about $124 per month, per person.

She added, "You know, last year, 1 in 7 people in Missoula County needed emergency food assistance -- that means that all other resources were spent, and they were coming to Missoula Food Bank in order to have food on the table."

Jon Ebelt, of the Department of Public Health and Human Services, said the $13 million cut from SNAP means each person using the program will see about $10 less each month.

Ebelt said, "If people are informed about these changes, then they can better prepare for them, but if they're caught off guard, then that's not a good thing."

State health officials said the only way to avoid this decrease, would be for Congress to postpone the cuts to SNAP, but they say that's highly unlikely.

"It's not a good thing that this reduction is occurring, but you know it's most likely going to be happening, so we need to get the world out so people are aware," Ebelt added.

Allred said at the food bank, they hope more can be done in the future to help Montanans keep food on the table.

She said, "We're hoping that SNAP will be funded at least at its current levels, but honestly, we would really like to see an increase."

Missoula Food Bank officials said they're asking community members to share their stories about how SNAP has influenced their lives.

To find out more information about SNAP, click here.

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