State Budget Cuts Gut Public Aid Infrastructure
By Amanda Eggert
From the Montana Free Press: https://montanafreepress.org/forgotten-communities/
When Bill Kaye says the staff and volunteers of the Livingston Food Resource Center saved his life, he isn’t speaking metaphorically. Last year, Kaye, a 61-year-old Livingston resident of 13 years, lost consciousness in the center’s food pantry.
“He went down — he was out cold,” Executive Director Michael McCormick recalled.
Someone among the organization’s four employees and three dozen volunteers called 9-1-1. An ambulance rushed Kaye to the hospital. His gratitude to the local nonprofit, which works to feed the hungry, promote health and foster economic development, shines through as he recounts what happened that day.
The past three years have been tough for Kaye. He used to run a company he started with a longtime friend that had him traveling around the world chasing marlin in sport-fishing tournaments. He got to be quite good at it, too, but his heart started failing and he had to rethink his priorities.
“I knew I couldn’t captain a boat [anymore],” Kaye said.
Kaye said he needs surgery on his shoulder, neck and heart, the latter having been weakened by atrial fibrillation and ventricular hypertrophy. Now Kaye is waiting for the state to decide if his disability claim has merit.
“I’ve paid into [disability] since 1975… and now it takes me two years to get it? And it’s not just me — it’s millions of people that are suffering from the same stuff,” Kaye said.
Kaye is frustrated by his situation, but he said he feels lucky to have some assistance. A friend helps him out with rent for his apartment, his family chips in with support while he waits on his disability claim, the Livingston Food Resource Center keeps him from going hungry, and one of its volunteers supplies him with food for Cowboy, his 14-year-old blue heeler.
Other Livingston residents living on the economic and social margins don’t have similar safety nets. In the past year and a half, Livingston has lost four public aid offices. As the effects of funding cuts to the Department of Public Health and Human Services continue to reverberate in rural areas across the state, some Montanans say they worry about what will become of the state’s “forgotten community.”