Montana Hunger and Poverty Policy Questions

Please read these questions and let us know what your organization and others in the Treasure State are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction that helps those in need.

Virtually all states have budget deficits and extensive financial problems this year and beyond.  The states are also the custodians and administrators of multi billions of dollars of federal assistance programs. State policies related to hunger and poverty contain a great deal of state money that is in short supply right now but much more federal money that can grow as the use of the programs grows.

These state policy questions are meant to begin a conversation about how states can deliver more services to their citizens who are facing extreme long term unemployment, hunger, home foreclosures and loss of health insurance and pensions. 

Please read them and let us know what your organization and others in your state are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction that helps those in need, especially the poorest of the poor, the millions of new poor, seniors, returning vets, children and the homeless.

Our intention is to create a place on our website that will highlight policy actions that state based organizations are taking and how they are proceeding.  We also hope to host a WhyHunger State Policy Award for the best state policies in the U.S.A.

1) In Montana, 35.6% of jobs pay below the federal poverty level, the 5th highest percentage in the country.  Why do so many jobs pay so little?  Is there any movement to increase the minimum wage or to try and bring more living wage jobs to the state?
2) The Hispanic population living in poverty in Montana is the largest in the nation. Are there any efforts to specifically target this sector and lower poverty rates among Montana’s Hispanic population?
3) The benefit rate for the Seniors Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program is one of the highest in the country ($50) yet the benefit rate for the WIC Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program is only $16.  Why is there such a disparity in benefit rates?  Is there any movement increase the benefits rate for WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program recipients?
4) There is no state EITC program.  Is there any movement in the legislature or among organizations to have one?
5) Montana does not have a Shared Work Program.  Why not?  Is there any effort to bring one to the state?
6) The percent of students who participate in both the School Breakfast Program and School Lunch Program is below the national average.  Is there any movement to encourage children participating in the School Lunch Program to participate in the School Breakfast Program and vice versa?
7) While a large number of children participating in National School Lunch Programs also participate in the Summer Nutrition Program, overall rates of participation in these programs are the lowest in the nation. Are efforts being made to extend the outreach of these programs and increase participation? Is there any work being done to increase participation sites? Has there been any success?
8) Montana has some of the highest percentages of its population living without health insurance in the nation. 18.2% of the total population, 24.1% of adults, and 12.9% of children are uninsured. All the levels are well above national levels. What is being done to increase insurance coverage in the state? Who is involved?
9) The unemployment insurance average weekly benefit is among the lowest in the country.  Is there any movement to increase the weekly average amount?
10) Only 11% of families living below the federal poverty line receive TANF.  This is far below the national average of 21%.  Is there any movement to increase participation and reach out to families in need?
11) There is no state pre-k program.  Is there any effort to introduce one?
12) 8.6% of the state budget is spent on corrections.  This is above the national average of 6.6%.  Is there any effort being made to reform the prison system in Montana such as reducing recidivism or alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders?
13) What other statewide policies or programs are you aware of that are helping to fight hunger and poverty, or are there any that are responsible for increasing it?

Please let us know what your organization and others in your state are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction to address these questions by contacting Executive Director and Co-Founder Bill Ayres at [email protected]

Feel free to inform us of any mistakes we may have made in any of these questions. Also we would appreciate any comments on policies or statistics that might have been overlooked.