Parenting is a tough job, but single parenting is an even tougher challenge. With little or no income, many struggle for survival.
In fact, about a third of Montana’s single mothers (34.6%) are living in poverty. Even if they have what is so-called a “good” job, few could 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.
01Montana 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.”
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.
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.
04Montana School Meal Program
Administered by the Montana Office of Public Instruction, School Meal Program is a program that pays for all or part of the cost of breakfast and lunch for children at school.
In Montana, any family who qualifies by income can receive free or reduced priced meals at a cost of 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch. Families at or below 130% FPL qualify for free school meals.
The free and reduced price meal applications are mailed to every student household in August of each year, but you may apply at anytime during the school year.
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.
As of September 14, 2017 all WIC participants will receive an eWIC card which can be used like a debit-card with a 4-digit PIN wherever Montana eWIC is accepted.
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 expanding coverage, Medicaid is now available to all adults age between 19-64 with income up to 133% of the federal poverty level and up to 157% for pregnant women.
For questions about applications and/or eligibility, call
Offices of Public Assistance (OPA)
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.
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.
Recipients of the scholarship are working families, working care takers, TANF recipients, and parents in high school, college or pursuing a GED whose income is below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines.
Single parent families are required to work a minimum of 60 hours each month unless they are attending school full-time. Those who are attending school part-time shall work no less than 40 hours each month.
Families seeking child care assistance must complete the scholarship application and submit it the local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency.2
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 incomes not exceeding 150% of federal poverty level.
Application for LIEAP 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
Free Weatherization Program
If you are eligible for LIEAP, you may also be eligible to have your home weatherized at no cost to you whether you own your home or rent from a landlord. Special priority is given to older adults and disabled individuals.
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 jobs.mt.gov or in person at the local Job Service Montana and provide proof of work search each week that you are collecting benefits.
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. 4
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.
- Eligible foods include milk, cheese, eggs, juice, peanut butter, beans, cereal, whole grain items, fruits & vegetables, baby food, and infant formula.
- Child Care Resource and Referral Regions
- See the list here for the center in your region.
- For the 2011-2012 award year a student must have earned at least $3,625 during the previous calendar year.