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Public Assistance Helpline to transition to new phone system

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News from the Department of Public Health and Human Services 

Department of Public Health and Human Services officials recently announced the agency will transition its Public Assistance Helpline (1-888-706-1535) to a new phone system beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 9. 

During the transition, the Helpline will be temporarily unavailable from Aug. 7–8. The Helpline number will remain the same. The popular Public Assistance Helpline was launched in 2015 and is staffed by knowledgeable eligibility workers for clients to call and receive assistance.

DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan said she appreciates the public’s patience during this process and apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause clients.

Hogan said taking the Helpline offline for a few days will allow for a much smoother transition to the new system. Staff will use this time to close out calls logged into the old system before launching the new system, and for staff training.

Hogan said while the Helpline is very popular with clients, fortunately there are other options available for Montanans to apply for SNAP food assistance, TANF cash assistance, or health coverage. She said this may be an opportunity for Montanans to consider opening an online account at: apply.mt.gov.

There, Montanans can open an account and apply for, renew, report changes and check their benefits 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Clients can also visit their local office of public assistance for in-person assistance.

Other options for clients to submit applications is via the Office of Public Assistance fax number at 1-877-418-4533 and by mail at field offices of public assistance, PO Box 202925, Helena, MT 59620.

DPHHS suggests that, if at all possible, clients wait until Aug. 9 or the following week to begin calling the Helpline again. Staff will be working from Aug. 7-8 to catch up on calls currently in the “queue.” So, some clients can expect to hear from OPA staff during this time.

Hogan said the new phone system also brings an exciting change. “The new system will allow us to add call scheduling,” Hogan said. “This new function will allow clients the opportunity to pre-schedule a specific time that is convenient for them to connect with an Office of Public Assistance employee.” This new feature will allow clients to schedule a call back at a time that is most convenient. 

Clients can call the Helpline and follow the prompts to schedule a call. Various times will be provided - the client just has to select the one that fits their schedule. This new feature, available beginning Aug. 9, will allow for a more efficient process for clients and staff to connect.

In addition to the new phone system, Montanans can now download the “Bnft Mobile App” from both the App Store and Google Play. This application provides real time available balances for SNAP and TANF benefits as well as transaction history, pin selection or change, store locator, ordering a replacement card, and other features.

“We are always looking for opportunities to better serve our clients, and this is one way we will be able to improve our ability to assist Montanans,” Hogan said. The Helpline will still have the same functionality as before, such as, a call-back function where a caller can remain on the line until a staff person is available or a caller can request a scheduled call back. 

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