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SNAP recipients report difficulty collecting benefits

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Nov 19 2012 10:50:45 PM MST
Updated On: Nov 19 2012 10:51:05 PM MST
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Some Montana residents are having a hard time with the Montana Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program, or SNAP program, that helps people in low-income households afford healthy food.

The program is using a new computer system to manage clients and for some people this is causing funding delays.

Sara Schackart is just one of nearly 126,000 Montanans who use the SNAP program to help purchase healthy food, but now she says she's having problems collecting benefits.

“They can't give me a timeframe on when it's going to be done; when my benefits are going to be there,” said Schackart.  “It's really frustrating that they would push something through this time of year.”

Officials at the Department of Public Health and Human Services say they just started using a new automated computer system in early November and they’re still working out a few bugs.

“It may take somebody a little bit longer to get through the system but it is working,” said Jamie Palagi of the Department of Public Health and Human Services.  “We should be able to issue benefits just as a client would have expected under the old system. The business process has not changed; it's just an adjustment period for staff to get comfortable.” 

But for Schackart and her family this is a huge problem and now they're not sure how they're going to pay for their Thanksgiving dinner.

“Now I don't have money to pay for Thanksgiving dinner and I might not have money to pay for Christmas dinner,” said Schackart. “I'm a full-time college student, my money goes to rent, power, my truck and anything my kids need, so I was kind of hoping the state would help me with this.”

Sara says with the little mouths to feed she needs a solution and fast.

“Take a day and hire and train new people to get this new system to work,” said Schackart. “Or figure out what's wrong with it so that the rest of us that are sitting here day by day, you know, food amounts dwindling down can actually make things work.”

Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services say if you're registered with the Montana SNAP program and are having difficulties collecting benefits to call your case worker and give them your case number so they can better assist you.