(Daily Montanan) Gov. Greg Gianforte announced Wednesday that the state will invest federal funds to prevent child abuse, expand the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment and Training program, and provide early intervention services and supports for families with infants and toddlers with significant developmental delays or disabilities, according to a news release from his office.
The governor also announced the allocation of more than $32 million in federal funds to support COVID-19 screening and testing in schools.
Using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the governor is dedicating more than $310,000 in supplemental funds to promote child safety and prevent child abuse through Montana’s existing Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) grant, the news release said.
“Every child deserves to grow up in a safe and nurturing environment,” Gov. Gianforte said in a statement. “When that doesn’t occur, these funds ensure well-trained professionals are there to provide care, counseling, advocacy and supports for the child.”
Specifically, funds will be directed towards growing, enhancing, and providing training and technical support to Multidisciplinary Teams (MDT) and Children’s Advocacy Centers (CAC) in Montana, expanding safety science methods to MDTs and CACs, and increasing forensic interview trainings.
The governor is also directing over $1.6 million in federal funds toward expanding the SNAP Employment and Training program, which assists eligible SNAP household members in gaining skills, training, and workforce experience, the news release said. Currently, due to limited funds, SNAP E&T provides services to able-bodied adults without dependents in only three Montana counties: Yellowstone, Missoula, and Lewis and Clark.
“By infusing these funds into the program with an eye towards long-term sustainability, we’ll be able to expand valuable workforce training services across the state to serve more Montanans and help them become self-sufficient,” Gianforte said in a statement.
The governor also approved a recommendation to allocate more than $1.2 million in federal funds to the Montana Milestones/Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Early Intervention Program, a system of early intervention services and supports for families with infants and toddlers, ages 0-36 months, with significant developmental delays or disabilities.
According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, approximately 1,540 infants and toddlers with disabilities across Montana were served by the Part C program in fiscal year 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, enrollment dropped significantly in 2021, decreasing by 48 percent.
“Providing supports to parents and serving children with developmental delays or disabilities when they’re under the age of three can prevent further, more costly services and ensure their success down the road,” Gianforte said.
DPHHS will serve as the lead agency in implementing these programs and allocating funds, as well as others to increase child care access announced by the governor in June.