LOCAL NEWS BRIEFS

Town Pump providing $1 million to food banks

Responding to the severe strain on the state’s food banks during the coronavirus pandemic, the Town Pump Charitable Foundation is providing $1 million in immediate grants to its food bank partners, including Libby Food Pantry and Troy Food Pantry.

The money will be sent directly to 100 food banks, food pantries and shelters in 83 Montana communities. These grants do not require any community matching funds.

“This is Montanans helping Montanans,” Foundation Director Bill McGladdery said. “Town Pump recognizes the urgency to help out our neighbors now as food insecurity grows in this unprecedented emergency.”

Food bank representatives said the pandemic has put additional financial strains on families who were already vulnerable and needing food assistance. They also said monetary donations allow for needed versatility, allowing them to purchase what food they need.

Many local food banks and Town Pump collaborate with the Montana Food Bank Network, which also is receiving money. The network’s purchasing power equals about $5 in food for each $1 spent by a food bank, extending the impact of the grants, a Network spokesperson said.

The emergency grants will not affect the Foundation’s annual “Be A Friend In Deed, Help Those In Need” fundraising campaign for food banks in the fall.

Submitted by Tori Tash

 

New MT

QuickFile

available for state tax Filers

The Montana Department of Revenue is urging Montanans who have not yet filed their 2019 tax returns to check into MT Quick File, a new online app that lets Montanans with simple taxes file their state income tax returns quickly and for free.

MT QuickFile is available for Montanans who:

Were full-year Montana residents in 2019;

Only have income documented on W-2, 1099-DIV or 1099-INT forms;

Are filing as singe, head of household, or married jointly;

Are taking the standard deduction;

Are not claiming any tax credits (other than the Elderly Homeowner/Renter Credit.)

Montanans who meet all of these criteria should ckeck if they can use MT QuickFile. Just go to MTRevenue.gov, click on “Find Your Filing Options,” and complete the short questionnaire.

The department also reminds anyone filing a Montana state income tax return for the first time to keep their mailing address current with the Department of Revenue.

Both federal and Montana deadlines for filing and paying 2019 individual income taxes have been extended to July 15, 2020.

For more information, visit MTRevenue.gov.

Submitted by Montana Department of Revenue

 

State

officials concerned about

decrease in calls to Child Abuse Hotline

Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) officials are concerned about a sharp decrease in the number of calls to the child abuse and neglect hotline in the past several weeks related to the current COVID-19 emergency.

DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan said from March 8-14, the week prior to the required closure of public schools, a total of 765 calls a week were being made to the hotline at 1-866-820-KIDS (5437). However, since March 15 the number of calls made to the hotline has dropped to an average of 425 calls per week.

“This decrease in calls is very concerning because teachers and school staff are mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect, and we know they are one of the main sources of calls to the hotline,” Hogan said. “With schools closed, it’s important for all of us to take an active role by calling the hotline if you suspect abuse or neglect.”

On March 15, Governor Steve Bullock issued a set of directives and guidance to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect vulnerable Montanans, including closing of public K-12 schools.

“Now is when we really need the entire community, no matter if one is a mandatory reporter or not, to really watch out for our kids,” Hogan said.

However, beyond calling the hotline, it’s also important for Montanans to reach out to their family, friends and neighbors who might be struggling right now due stress caused by social isolation, parenting stress, and financial uncertainty. Child welfare experts know that stress of this nature can lead to child abuse, so it’s important to reach out now to prevent abuse from happening in the first place.

“We know that many families are feeling overwhelmed,” Hogan said. “Even though we can’t connect in person right now, I urge everyone to reach out to your family, friends, and neighbors through technology, or just simply pick up the phone. If someone is struggling, urge them to ask for help if they need it by talking to a close a friend or relative, a local community provider they’ve been in contact with before, law enforcement, home visitor or a CFSD caseworker to request assistance. There are services in the community that can help.”

Hogan said even with the current social distancing requirements in place to limit the spread of coronavirus, child protection specialists continue to provide services for families on their caseload. And, as required by law, they also continue to investigate reports of child abuse and neglect that are reported to the hotline.

The primary adjustment made as a result of COVID-19 is that family visitations are being made using Skype or FaceTime. If those aren’t viable options, CFSD staff work with families to hold visitations that conform to the current health and safety recommendations.

Hogan said she’s proud of CFSD workers for their continued efforts to help strengthen families amidst the current challenges and for their efforts being made to help their local communities. For example, in Glasgow, CFSD staff have teamed up with the Glasgow Public Schools to deliver 60 lunches a day to children in surrounding rural areas of the community.

Submitted by DPHHS

 

Evergreen Magazine announces book
release

A newly published book by James D. Petersen is entitled, First Put Out the Fire! It has the subtitle Rescuing Western National Forests From Nature’s Wild Fire Pandemic. Not the only pandemic around lately. The book is Petersen’s summation of 34 years of research, interviews, and writing experience concerning the west’s National Forests.

His work traces the historic, social, cultural, environmental and regulatory roots of the current situation according to his take. In the book he is quoted as saying, “Remember, the only constant in nature is change. There is no equilibrium, no steady state in which all the forces of nature exist in harmony with one another and no tooth fairy.” He goes on to state, “The natural processes that drive life and death in our forests are complex and in constant motion. We cannot simplify them by legislative fiat, but we can help these natural processes right themselves.”

The Evergreen Foundation is on a mission to advance public understanding and support for science based forestry and forest policy. Towards that end they publish Evergreen Magazine, a periodic journal with a 30- year history of advocating science based forest policy. Petersen is the publisher of Evergreen Magazine and can be reached by phone at (406) 871-1600 or by email at jim@evergreenmagazine.com. For more information on Petersen’s book, the foundation, and the magazine see their website at evergreenmagazine.com.

As most of us in this area know, weather conditions have an awful lot to do with fire potential, conditions, and severity. The National Interagency Fire Center report as of April 1 that considers the outlook period through June / July in our area of the northern Rockies is currently predicting normal significant large fire potential. They state that the very dry conditions having occurred across northern Idaho and western Montana in the past month have averaged less than half of the average precipitation. Fortunately, temperatures stayed low and new snows that have fallen, particularly higher up, have aided snow pack levels and they are still in normal range. Fire weather forecasters also know that a lot depends on dead fuel moisture levels, and green up and growth rates in live fuels. In the mountainous, complex topography of our particular zone, there are always concerns about valley inversions combining with a weak La Nina and thunderstorm patterns later in the season for higher ignition rates. But even their report states that at this time, it is too early to accurately predict any confident forecasts.

It may just be a good time to remember that we have been through trying times before and we are still here. Natural fires do occur, and we should do what we can to mitigate them. We know we are in good hands with our local fire professionals. Maybe it’s time to relax and give Jim Petersen’s book a read to get his take on things. To recall a bit of wisdom from legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, “The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.”

By Brian Baxter, The Montanian