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Coronavirus council came together to reinvigorate Montana's economy


Last updated 9/1/2020 at 8:41am

They say, “Don’t always trust what you see on TV,” and in our case, that’s true. Recently, there have been claims that the makeup of the Coronavirus Relief Fund Advisory Council was politically motivated. As members of the advisory council, we want to set the record straight.

The effort we undertook to set out a roadmap for how to best deploy CARES Act money was undertaken without consideration of politics. It is unfortunate to now see it being used for politics, especially in such a misleading way.

Of the 24-member council, 11 have never given donations to Steve Bullock. Several have donated to and are supporters of Steve Daines and Bullock’s past political opponents. While some of us have given to Gov. Bullock in the past or during his current race, we didn’t serve on the advisory council with the hope we would personally benefit. And neither did the members who support or have supported Bullock’s opponents. We served to provide our business and industry expertise on how to best use this money for the benefit of all Montanans.

We are a diverse group of Montanans — with backgrounds in business, tourism, government, nonprofits, farming, economic development and more. Most importantly, we are Montanans first. Every member of the advisory team brought a valuable perspective to how to help Montanans recover from this public health and economy crisis.

At the height of the crisis in April, we worked quickly and we worked diligently to provide the best possible advice to reinvigorate Montana’s path toward economic recovery and revive our communities. In just two weeks’ time, we generated a report with our final recommendations — we would not have been able to respond as effectively if we were mired in political or personal agendas.

More importantly, we began our discussions while we were still waiting on guidance from the federal government on how the CARES Act dollars could be spent, because we knew it was too important to wait to act.

We also valued the input of our fellow Montanans. We set up a process to receive public input from small businesses and impacted industries on how to best spend these dollars and took the over 1,400 public comments into account when drafting our final recommendations. Montanans are able to see our recommendations online. They can also access a transparency dashboard that shows which businesses in communities across the state are awarded relief dollars at covidrelief.mt.gov.

During tough times, Montanans come together and put their differences aside. We care about getting Montanans back on their feet and we are grateful we had the opportunity to work together as a diverse group to get our economy back on track and help our main streets thrive.


Signed by Coronavirus Relief Fund Advisory Council Members: Larry Simkins, The Washington Companies; Charlie Beaton, Big Dipper Ice Cream; Scott Brown, The Base Camp; Tim Burton, MT League of Cities and Towns; Nick Checota, Logjam Presents; Colin Davis, Chico Hot Springs; Shalon Hastings, Fly FisHer Adventures; Jacquie Helt, SEIU; Jim Markel, Red Oxx Manufacturing; Janice Mattson, Mattson Farms; Susan Hay Patrick, United Way of Missoula; Jim Peterson, Rancher, former Senate President; Kevin Riley, First Interstate Bank; Mark Semmens, D.A. Davidson (retired); Jon Sesso, State Senator, small business owner; Jason Smith, Montana Indian Affairs Office; Sarah Walsh, PayneWest Insurance; Joe Willauer, Butte Local Development Corporation


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