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MT Families Receive Funds for Missed School Meals

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About 67,000 Montana kids were eligible for free and reduced-price lunches during the 2019-2020 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Africa Studio/Adobe Stock)
About 67,000 Montana kids were eligible for free and reduced-price lunches during the 2019-2020 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Africa Studio/Adobe Stock)
 By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact
September 10, 2020

HELENA, Mont. -- Students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals missed out on those meals when school closed down in March.

But a program issuing funds through the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) is reimbursing parents for those missed meals.

Families are receiving a one-time payment of about $330 on new or existing Electronic Benefits Transfer cards as part of the Pandemic EBT program.

Elisha Buchholz, public policy coordinator for the Montana Food Bank Network, said the program is getting funds out during a trying time as kids start school again.

"It just makes it stressful and it makes it more difficult to plan meals and figure out where your things are coming from," Buchholz said. "And then if you don't have a job or you have the inability to work from home, it makes it even more complicated."

Buchholz said most families were automatically enrolled in the program, but if students qualified for free and reduced-price meals during the past school year and didn't receive benefits, they need to send an application to DPHHS by Sep. 21.

Buchholz hopes Congress will include a similar program in its next COVID-19 relief package, although she acknowledges the logistics of distributing it would be more difficult the next time around.

"With the hybrid models and some kids doing online academy and some kids going in person and some schools doing all in-person every day, all day long, the complications of being able to figure who would get it and who wouldn't just intensifies," Buchholz said. "So it just makes it harder to do it, but we would still love to see it."

About 67,000 Montana kids were eligible for free and reduced-price lunches during the 2019-2020 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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