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Proposed state cuts include local office


November 9, 2017

The Montana Legislature will meet next week in order to balance the state’s budget and address a $227 million revenue shortfall.

Gov. Steve Bullock has proposed several cuts to the budget. Included is closing 19 Offices of Public Assistance (OPA) throughout Montana, including the Sanders County office located in Thompson Falls. The office provides services including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF Cash assistance), and Medicaid.

“I have put forth a set of reasonable and thoughtful proposals to balance Montana’s budget for consideration by the Legislature,” Gov. Bullock said in a statement released Monday.

The OPA closures proposed include offices of three employees or less. As recent as 5 years ago, the Sanders County OPA had 5 employees. As eligibility workers left positions open, those positions were not filled in the local office. The Sanders County OPA currently has three eligibility workers and one regional worker.

According to the proposed cuts, eliminating 19 OPA offices would reduce the motor pool costs for the Department of Public Health and Human Services by half. Staff would have the option of transferring to larger offices across the state. The nearest offices to Thompson Falls are Libby, Polson, Kalispell and Missoula.

Other OPA offices that would be effected by the cuts include Chinook, Choteau, Columbus, Cut Bank, Deer Lodge, Dillon, Glendive, Malta, Red Lodge, Shelby, Sidney, Forsyth, Conrad, Big Timber, Plentywood, Fort Benton, Roundup and Livingston.

The proposed budget cuts for DPHHS also include reductions in Medicaid and Senior and Long-Term Care services.

The special session for the Montana Legislature will begin at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 14, with hearings beginning on Monday.


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