Bullock lists new relief prorgams, new COVID confirmations
Last updated 6/5/2020 at 11:30am
Gov. Steve Bullock held a press call Thursday to announce additional funding through the Coronavirus Relief Fund including the Montana Meat Processing Infrastructure grant which is available starting immediately to aid small and medium-sized meat processors responding to COVID-19 supply disruptions.
These grants will support local meat processing infrastructure capacity within the state, he said.
He added that due to interruptions in national supply chains meat processing capacity throughout the country has been significantly impacted.
“Supporting the in-state meat processing infrastructure capacity will provide alternative marks and channels for Montana’s cattle, hog, poultry producers,” he said.
The maximum award meat processors can receive is $150,000, he said.
“Our ranchers certainly raise some of the world’s best beef and there’s no shortage here in Montana,” Bullock said, “but right now, the majority of our livestock production depends on national and international markets. These grants will help boost processing and storage capacity, it’ll help Montana businesses put more Montana meat onto more shelves and an increase in-state processing meats, more direct sales and better value out of the market for producers.”
He said it is in addition to other programs the state offers.
“Last month, we announced sort of the first sweep of grants from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to support families, small businesses, nonprofits and health services impacted by COVID-19,” he said. “Nine programs provided an array of support such as helping small businesses to retain current employees or business liability, helping food and ag businesses bolster food security, providing housing assistance for Montanans, assisting our nonprofits with retaining existing programs support, supporting local public health departments to in their work to contact and trace to prepare businesses to safely re-open.”
Last week, Bullock said, the state added the Montana Business Adaptation Program to provide reimbursement for COVID-19 expenses related to keeping employees and customers safe.
Montana’s workers, businesses and economic sectors are financially impacted by this emergency and need assistance now, he said.
New to the https://commerce.mt.gov/Coronavirus-Relief website, a dynamic dashboard shows the grants that have been paid to businesses and nonprofits, he said.
The state agencies are working diligently to be careful stewards of taxpayer dollars to ensure Montanans and businesses receiving this funding actually meet the eligibility requirements, he added.
“More than 8,000 Montana businesses have applied for funding through the business stabilization program,” Bullock said. “More than $10 million have already gone out the door to Montana businesses that need it. We’re already getting reports that this funding is indeed making a difference.”
With such a high demand of applicants from the business stabilization program, he said, the state decided to add an additional $25 million, bringing the total funding available to $75 million.
He said these dollars will ensure that even more Montana based small businesses with 50 or fewer employees that have sustained a loss of revenue due to COVID-19 are able to keep their businesses running and moving forward.
He said, the projects the state has seen so far applying for the agriculture adaptability grants have shown Montana’s producers willingness to diversify and adapt in ways that strengthen the local distribution channels, from expansion that includes farm stamps to new additional sales platforms.
The ag producers are no strangers to meeting challenges, he said, adding that despite the trying times of this pandemic has imposed farmers and ranchers are pressing on.
“We want to make sure we are doing everything possible to see to it that there are viable markets,” Bullock said. “The agriculture adaptability program provides relief to small and medium-size food and ag businesses across our state in response to increased demands on local food systems. We’ve added an additional $250,000 to that program to ensure that we’re meeting the demand of our process.”
He said the priorities of the Coronavirus Relief Council are to make sure that the dollars are going to those who most need it — “those who keep our Main Street thriving, those who make up our workforce and keep our industries running, and those who run our communities to ensure that service remain intact for Montanans during the pandemic.”
It is also a priority for Montanans in all corners of the state to have an equal shot of receiving funds if they do meet the requirements, he said.
He said the local governments in the state have gone to great lengths throughout the response of COVID-19 to keep their local communities safe that also comes with an extra cost.
The state will also be making available reimbursements for local governments related to COVID-19 expenditures, he added.
“Using CARES Act dollars both county, city and town governments can submit requests for reimbursement for items like medical expenses, public health expenses or employees regular and overtime hours substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to COVID-19,” Bullock said. “Through the FEMA public assistance program local governments can be eligible for reimbursements for costs related to emergency protective measures as a result of COVID-19.”
Bullock also talked about an increase in the number of confirmed cases in the last couple of weeks.
He said eight new cases were confirmed Wednesday.
Of those, six were in Big Horn County, one in Yellowstone County and one in Gallatin County.
The state has seen a small spike in cases over the last two weeks.
Bullock said a handful of cases are associated with one another while another small handful have no apparent exposure identified.
It underscores to him, he said, the need to continue testing as the state closely monitors the spread of the virus and potential impacts of re-opening the state to tourists.
“To date, we’ve identified 20 cases this week in Gallatin, Big Horn and Yellowstone Counties. It’s important to note that we’re finding many of these cases as a result of expanding testing and recent recommendations from the CDC to test all close contacts,” he said. “Until recently, when we were doing that contact tracing only symptomatic contacts were tested, but as we recognize the role of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic infections in transmission with broader testing availability we’ll continue to test more.”
Native American tribes including at Blackfeet, Fort Belknap, Crow, Fort Peck, and Rocky Boy and the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians have all completed a first round of community testing events, he said, adding that through those large-scale events approximately 5,300 individuals have been tested.
The state has been working closely with Big Horn County and the Crow Nation to identify people who are at risk and offer testing, he said.
He said that the Northern Cheyenne Tribe is setting up drive-through testing next week, and, the week after that, The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes at the Flathead Indian Reservation will be doing so.