Montana Senate gives initial OK to more verification checks on assistance programs


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Montana is one of several states looking to reduce fraud in food stamps and related benefits programs, and Democrats oppose the effort.


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Holly Michels

A bill that would have the state health department implement more methods of verifying the eligibility of those receiving benefits from public assistance programs passed an initial vote in the Montana Senate on Tuesday.

All the Senate Republicans backed Senate Bill 100, while all Democrats opposed it in a 31-19 vote.

The bill, carried by Sen. Cary Smith, R-Billings, would increase the ways the Department of Public Health and Human Services verifies people are qualified for several public assistance programs.

Beyond tax and wage data, the department would contract with a third-party vendor to also review arrest and incarceration information, immigration status, housing assistance payments, emergency utility payments, child care services information, information from external vendors such as LexisNexis and Equifax, and more.

Smith said the bill is meant to eliminate fraud in state-administered programs including Medicaid, Medicaid expansion, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program.

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