It’s unfortunate that I have to write this post on Christmas Day but I feel the need to nominate someone for the 2017 Scrooge Award. It’s Sen. Jennifer Fielder (R-Thompson Falls).
The Office of Public Assistance serving Sanders County is closing its doors, according to the Sanders County Ledger. The office employs four people and will shutter on Jan. 16. SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and Medicaid are some of the services provided by the Thompson Falls staff.
While known mostly for her desire to put Montana’s public lands in private hands, Fielder decided to pen her version of why the offices had to close. It’s a litany of misdirection and half-truths. The opening line:
“It is a shame that a local state office with 4 employees who served families in need was shut down due to the Governor’s budget cuts,” Fielder writes.
Wrong. It was you and your party that closed this office and 18 others in mostly rural areas. The Democrats and the governor proposed revenue increases that would have kept these offices open — nothing radical: higher taxes on cigarettes and rental cars, for example. Everyone of these proposals was shot down by Fielder and her party.
Montana’s Department of Public Health and Human Services received the brunt of the budget cuts. That department is responsible for the public assistance offices.
This line in the news story caught my eye:
Montanans can submit an application or manage their existing case by going online to apply.mt.gov.
How convenient, not to mention that many of the folks needing assistance probably don’t happen to have wifi and a computer at their disposal.
2018 is going to be a very difficult year for those needing assistance in rural areas. There are also going to be a number of state employees in these small towns who are going to start the year without a job.
It is you, Sen. Fielder, and your party, who are responsible for more hardship being heaped on the most vulnerable Montanans.
UPDATE: $100,000 would go a long way in keeping the Thompson Falls office open. Thanks, Fielder, for not releasing your emails and getting the state sued. (Hat tip: Rep. Jessica Karjala, D-Billings.)