Opinion: SB 100 Would Threaten Low-Income Families

Missoulian

As board members of Mountain Home, we write today to urge opposition to Senate Bill 100, which will add unnecessary red tape to applicants for vital programs like food stamps (SNAP) and the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP).

Mountain Home is a transitional living facility that provides shelter and supportive services for young mothers as they work to create safe, stable and nurturing homes of their own. Programs like SNAP, CHIP, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid help our most vulnerable community members — most notably, children — and SB 100 will result in too many families losing access to those critical services.

The majority of the young mothers and children served by Mountain Home rely on some form of public assistance to meet their basic needs and provide for their children. These mothers are often working hard at low-wage jobs or going to school to expand their family’s opportunities. Despite their hard work and motivation, many still need the help of these essential programs to ensure their family’s basic needs are met.

The CHIP program ensures that children, like those living at Mountain Home, have access to high-quality health care, regular well-child appointments, vaccines, dental care and eyeglasses. CHIP and Medicaid work well for Montanans — nearly 90,000 of us use the program, with nearly half of the program’s participants living in rural Montana (Montana Budget & Policy Center, “Medicaid Provides Stability for Montanans During Times of Crisis,” December 2020). Furthermore, a pandemic is no time to take these critical services away from Montanans.

The SNAP program helps ensure that children across our state go to bed with food in their bellies. Nearly 37,000 children in Montana live in food insecure homes and those numbers have only increased over the last year as a result of COVID-19. The consequences of food insecurity are significant and long-term, including impaired cognitive development, mental health challenges, reduced math and reading scores, and lost productivity at work (Montana Food Bank Network). Given the reality that 1 in 10 Montanans struggles with hunger, adding redundant red tape to the SNAP program will only cause further hardship in our communities. SB 100, if passed, will have a dire impact on the thousands of children who depend on SNAP for food every day.

Finally, the Department of Health and Human Services already verifies participants’ eligibility prior to enrollment in programs. SB 100 proposes hiring a third-party contractor to further verify eligibility, adding another cost to administering these programs. There is simply no need to create duplicative systems of verification. Senate Bill 100 is neither cost-effective or efficient and will result in many Montanans losing access to critical resources for basic necessities like nutritious food and medical care. We urge lawmakers to oppose SB 100.

Please contact your legislators (406-444-4800) and the House Human Services Committee today and urge them to vote “no” on Senate Bill 100. The proposed law will be discussed in the House Human Services Committee next week — please reach out by Monday, April 12.