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Bozeman will see a temporary boost starting this week in public food assistance benefits for women, children and infants.

The increase will about triple the monthly voucher to purchase fruits and vegetables for some using WIC benefits.

Following funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, the federal government expanded the WIC program giving states, tribal nations and territories the option of boosting the cash-value vouchers for up to four months.

Montana lawmakers approved the increase in late May during a committee meeting tasked with deciding how to spend some of the state’s ARPA funds.

The temporary increase will run from June to September in Montana.

Normally, the cash-value voucher is $9 per child and $11 for women who are pregnant, postpartum or breastfeeding. The ARPA plan allows states to provide $35 per child and adult, per month.

As of February, about 14,000 people used WIC across the state. In April, a little more than 800 people used WIC in Gallatin County, according to the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

Those already using WIC will see the additional benefits directly in their benefit balance, or Electronic Benefit Transfer card.

Anyone who enrolls between June 1 and Sept. 30 and are found eligible will automatically receive the additional benefits. Signing up for WIC can be done online at www.signupwic.com.

Women, infants and children up to 5 years old are eligible for WIC based on income. Families with incomes below 185% of the federal poverty level are eligible. For a family of three, that would be a household annual income of about $40,000.

The federal government in March also announced a 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits through September, which provides about $28 more per person per month, or more than $100 more per month for a household of four, in additional SNAP benefits.

Increases in benefits, even temporarily like the WIC program, can help ease food insecurity, said Laura Stonechiper, the programs manager at the Gallatin Valley Food Bank.

Stonechiper said demand at the food bank has leveled off since the height of the pandemic last year — when demand skyrocketed — but many Gallatin County residents are still reliant on the emergency food resource.

“I hope with this increase it will enable folks to free up some money that they can put towards other important bills like rent and utilities,” Stonechiper said.

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Juliana Sukut can be reached at 582-2630 or jsukut@dailychronicle.com

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