Policy advocacy is an important part of our work at MFBN. While food pantries and other community resources play a crucial role in meeting the need for food, we must also strengthen and protect our public nutrition programs and address root causes of hunger.
Over the last four months, we focused our policy work on the state legislature, advocating on bills that would affect food insecurity in Montana.
We made calls and sent emails to legislators, delivered testimony before committees on how bills would impact the people we serve, and provided updates, talking points, and resources to our broad network of partners across the state so they could advocate too.
We helped to defeat two bills restricting access to SNAP, which would have worsened food insecurity for vulnerable families and individuals in Montana. While one bill died in the legislature, the other harmful SNAP bill passed the legislature and made it to the Governor’s desk. We were grateful to join with 42 organizations in signing a letter urging Governor Bullock to veto the bill, which he ultimately did.
We voiced support for the importance of continuing Medicaid expansion in Montana. Medicaid expansion has been an overwhelming success in our state, providing health coverage to nearly 1 in 10 Montanans, strengthening rural hospitals, and supporting our economy. Without legislative action, Medicaid expansion would have ended this summer.
After our preferred Medicaid expansion bill, HB425, failed to move forward, we urged support for HB658, a compromise bill that continues Medicaid expansion until 2025 but makes some significant changes. These changes include a requirement for participants to meet and report a minimum number of ‘community engagement’ hours.
Lastly, we supported two bills, HB400 and HB208, which failed to move forward this session but we hope to try again in two years. MFBN worked with the Community Food and Agriculture Coalition (CFAC) and other key partners to support HB400, which proposed state funding for the Double SNAP Dollars (DSD) program. DSD is a nutrition incentive program that encourages SNAP customers to shop at local
farmers markets or other participating retailers. The program helps SNAP households afford healthy foods, while directly supporting Montana farmers. After the House passed HB400 with bipartisan support, the bill died in its first Senate committee.
The second bill that did not move forward was HB208, the FAMLI Act, which would have allowed workers to receive a portion of their pay when needing to take time off for significant health events. We commonly hear from those visiting Montana food pantries the difficulty of dealing with unexpected health challenges. All it takes is a car accident, a cancer diagnosis, or some other major health event to knock a person off her feet and into a situation of needing help. The FAMLI Act would have allowed workers get through health challenges and stay connected to the workforce.
Overall, we are pleased with the outcomes of the 2019 session and SO impressed and appreciative of all of our partners who contacted legislators or traveled to Helena to testify. Legislators need to hear from those across the state who understand how bills will impact our local communities. A huge thanks to everyone who weighed in and helped make a difference!
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