Parenting is a tough job, but single parenting is an even tougher challenge. With little or no income, many struggle for survival.

In fact, fewer than half of Montana’s single mothers [45.53%] are living in poverty. Even if they have what is so-called a “good” job, they cannot survive without assistance.

That is why the state of Montana reaches out to support low-income single mother families through federal- and state-initiated programs.

From food, cash benefits to free medical coverage, the state ensures that each member of the household benefits from whatever it has to offer.

$Montana Earned Income Tax Credit

Montana’s EITC will come into effect in 2019, meaning low-income working families in Montana can begin to claim the state’s EITC beginning with the 2020 income tax filing season.

The state EITC is available only to working families and it’s fully refundable, meaning those who qualify and claim the credit could pay less federal tax, pay no tax or even get a tax refund.

At 3 percent, Montana’s credit would be the lowest of the 28 states that offer their own EITCs. While modest in comparison, families could use the extra money to “pay down bills, put food on the table and buy school clothes.”

1Montana Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Montana TANF program provides temporary financial assistance for needy families with children under the age of 18. The aim is to end dependency on government benefits by promoting job preparation and work.

TANF cash assistance is a not free ride. You are required to participate in the Work Readiness Component (WoRC) program which is a job training and employment program for TANF participants.

If you are a single mother, you are required to participate in a minimum of 33 hours per week (132 hours per month) of WoRC approved activities.

2Montana Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Montana SNAP (formerly Montana Food Stamps) helps low-income people and families in Montana with cash assistance to buy the food they need for a nutritionally adequate diet.

Eligible SNAP participants are issued a Montana Access Card used to make food purchases at grocery stores and supermarkets, in lieu of paper food stamp coupons.

Participants who are age 16 through 59 must register for work, and may be required to participate in a Food Stamp Employment and Training Program unless a specified exemption is met.

3Montana Special Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

WIC Program provides supplemental foods,1 nutrition education and referrals to health care, at no cost, to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age 5 who qualify.

To be eligible, you must be a resident of the state of Montana with income not exceeding 185% of the federal poverty guidelines; and be individually determined by a health professional to be at nutrition risk.

4Montana Medicaid

Montana Medicaid is a health care coverage for low-income Montanans. Priority is given to those most in need – mostly uninsured children under age 18, pregnant women, disabled adults, as well as seniors.

In Montana, Medicaid is divided into two main categories: family-related Medicaid & Medicaid for people who are aged, blind, or disabled. Medicaid for children, ages 0-19, is called Healthy Montana Kids Plus.

As Montana is not expanding coverage, Medicaid eligibility for non-disabled adults is limited to parents with incomes below 24% of poverty or about $4,900 a year for a single mother of two.

5Healthy Montana Kids Plan

Healthy Montana Kids (HMK) Plan is a free or low-cost health insurance plan that provides coverage to eligible Montana children up to age 19 whose families meet income guidelines.

Covered services include well-child checkups, prescription drugs, dental care, eye exam & eyeglasses, and other related services. No pre-existing condition limitations.

The coverage is free of charge, although some families covered by Healthy Montana Kids (HMK) may make a small co-payment; however, no family pays more than $215 per year in co-payments.

6Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarships

The Early Childhood Services Bureau offers “Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarships” to qualified low-income families in Montana. Everyone that participates pays a co-payment based on a sliding fee scale.

Scholarships are available to working families whose income not exceeding 150% of the federal poverty guidelines; who are also recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

7Montana Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

The Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) assists eligible Montana residents and families with their heating and cooling costs. Priority is granted to households with the elderly (60 years of age & older), disabled or a young child under age 5 with incomes not exceeding 150% of federal poverty level.

Application for LIHEAP generally must be filed during the “heating season” for which assistance is being sought, between October 1 and April 30th each year.

For more details on how to apply, call 1-800-332-2272.

8Montana Unemployment Insurance

Montana’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) provides temporary financial assistance to workers unemployed through no fault of their own — for up to 28 weeks.

As a condition of eligibility, you are required to register for work online at or in person at the local Job Service Montana and provide proof of work search each week that you are collecting benefits.

Claims for weekly benefits may be filed online using a 4-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN) or if you wish to file your initial claim over the phone, call the center serving your county.2

9Montana Grants for College

Montana Higher Education Grant (MHEG)

Montana Higher Education Grant is funded by the state of Montana and is matched with Federal funds. Eligible students may be awarded up to $500 a year based on their needs and fund availability.

Montana Tuition Assistance Program (MTAP)

Montana Tuition Assistance Program (MTAP) is the largest need-based grant program in Montana. It is awarded, based on need, to Montana resident students who have earned at least 500 times the federal hourly minimum wage. 3

To apply for either (or both) of these grants, students must be accepted by the college’s admissions office and apply for financial aid by submitting a FAFSA.

Funds for MHEG and MTAP are limited, so early FAFSA filing is encouraged — advisably prior to March 1 deadline.

  1. Eligible foods include milk, cheese, eggs, juice, peanut butter, beans, cereal, whole grain items, fruits & vegetables, baby food, and infant formula.
  2. See the list here for the center in your region.
  3. For the 2011-2012 award year a student must have earned at least $3,625 during the previous calendar year.