Here to Help

MACo is committed and focused on helping Montana’s counties through this ever-evolving pandemic through advocating for your needs, disseminating useful information, facilitating the exchange of effective strategies and approaches, as well as providing guidance and support.

We believe that keeping the channels of communication open during these times is of the upmost importance, as the circumstances are very fluid in this unprecedented event.

If you have any questions or should need any guidance/assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us (maco@mtcounties.org OR shantil@mtcounties.org), and we will not hesitate to contact you with more information.

Continuously Updated–Check Back Often

Counties are on the front lines protecting their communities from the Novel Cornavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and Montana (as well as our Nation) is currently in a rapidly changing landscape of events regarding public health and protections against the further spread of the disease.  Click the headings below to access pertinent information intended to help Montana’s counties maneuver through various circumstances.

MACo Guidance

Office & Workplace Guidance (Updated 03/27/2020)

Montana County Elected Officials:  Your staff at MACo understand, value, and support the principles of local decision-making.  As such, these recommendations are PURELY ADVISORY and have been updated to reflect national guidance only.  Operational decisions are best made by those who know, and our local elected officials know!

We ask that you continue close coordination with your county elected officials, local public health officials, and law enforcement in terms of operational decisions, closures, and enforcement actions. 

Essential Services & Continuity of Operations

This guidance that follows is designed to assist you in determining essential services and how to provide continuity of operations during the Shelter-in-place/Stay-at-home Directive issued yesterday, March 26, 2020, that goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on March 28, 2020.

Governor Bullock has continually recognized the importance of local decision-makers in his COVID-19 Directives.  Modifications to office hours, work routines, staffing, public access, and mitigation measures should be done in a collaborative process that includes all elected officials and local public health professionals.   Be especially mindful of the importance of public health and public safety and encourage collaboration with the officials responsible for carrying out those missions.

The “Flexibility Directive” the Governor issued requires “approval from their political subdivision or its delegates” when deviating from the open office requirements of 7-4-2211 MCA.  Neither an elected official nor the Board of County Commissioners should be making unilateral decisions about office hours for the elected offices in county government.  Regardless of what hours are established, you need to implement social distancing mitigation measures in accordance with the new Shelter-in-place Order.  Cooperation and collaboration are essential in this process.  If you cannot implement reasonable social distancing measures your options may be limited to modifying schedules, staffing, and public access hours.

When determining critical staff and critical operations, please consider utilizing the CISA guidelines in conjunction with the exemptions from the Governor’s Directive.  Although local governments were granted a categorical exclusion, each individual county must evaluate the necessity of full staffing and normal operations during this emergency.

As you begin determining your course of action, consider the following:

  • Is it necessary to implement modified staffing and hours of operation in elected offices?

Use extra caution when discussing changes to those required to respond to public health, safety, and law enforcement functions.

  • Which non-elected office staff are you able to send home? At what level are you able to operate payroll and human resources functions to carry out required administrative tasks?
  • What precautions may be taken regarding road and bridge crews?
    – For public safety, road and bridge crews should at least be available.
    – Possible solutions may include altering schedules, eliminating in-person briefings, and/or modifying work hours.
  • How do landfill operations need to be modified for work hours and public access?
  • Remember that collective bargaining agreements may play a role in determining revised work hours and the impact to employees. It is advisable to keep union representatives involved in the decision-making process to the extent decisions implicate collective bargaining agreements.

Please remember each county determines essential and non-essential services and employees.  That decision can be revisited as time goes on.  Please be deliberative in the processes and err on the side of protecting public health during this pandemic.

Consider providing guidance to your volunteer boards and committees.  Consider suspending all board or committee meetings not essential to public safety, health and safety, or essential public services until the social distancing requirements and gathering limitations are relaxed or eliminated.

Finally, strongly consider establishing newly revised operations, office hours, or closures in a formal manner.  Resolutions should be adopted in conjunction with your emergency declarations (where applicable) and operational plans should be modified and formalized in as public a manner as possible.

Any measure taken must comport with all constitutional mandates, including Montana’s constitutional right-to-know and right-of-participation provisions (Mont. Const. Art. II, §§ 8 and 9). This includes the requirements that meetings must be open to the public, duly noticed, and materials under consideration by the governing body be made available to the public.  The conduct of public meetings must be in conformance with applicable laws and any subsequent Directives issued during this emergency.  Refer to the attached Attorney General Guidance Letter for Conducting Local Public Meetings During COVID-19 Emergency.  They include:

  1. Cancel non-essential meetings
  2. Limit public meetings to critical items only
  3. Determine type of meeting (allows remote means)
  4. Noticing the Public Meeting – to include information on how the public may participate
  5. Meetings by Remote Communication – establishing guidelines for meaningful public participation

The attached Directive follows federal guidance to determine the businesses and operations deemed essential, which are summarized in the Directive and can also be found here.

Relevant Citations From the Directive

Governmental Functions

All first responders, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, court personnel, law enforcement and corrections personnel, hazardous materials responders, child protection and child welfare personnel, fire protection personnel, wildland fire fighters, housing and shelter personnel, military, government employees involved in training the above functions, and other government employees are categorically exempt from this Directive. For purposes of this Directive, state government employees are categorically exempt from this Directive. Local governments are permitted to designate which functions and employees are essential and exempt for the purposes of this Directive, apart from those positions and functions named in the Directive.

Directive Is Public Health Order and Enforceable by County Attorney

This Directive, along with any prior Directive that implements and references the public health authorities of the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) provided in Title 50, constitutes a “public health . . . order[]” within the meaning of § 50-1-103(2), MCA, and is enforceable by the Attorney General, DPHHS, a county attorney, or other local authorities under the direction of a county attorney.

Local Public Health Agencies to Assist in Administration of this Public Health Order

Local public health agencies are directed to assist in the administration of this Directive, consistent with § 50-1-202(2)(a), MCA.

Less-Restrictive Local Ordinances Preempted

This Directive is in effect statewide in Montana. In the interest of uniformity of laws and to prevent the spread of disease, all inconsistent emergency county health ordinances are preempted by this Directive, but only to the extent they are less restrictive. Counties may adopt more restrictive ordinances.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Additional Guidance

County Resolutions & Additional Info Regarding Emergency & Disaster Declarations

  1. Anaconda-Deer Lodge County Emergency Declaration
  2. Big Horn County Emergency Declaration
  3. Blaine County Disaster Declaration
    Public Notice
  4. Broadwater County Emergency Declaration
    Press Release
    Guidelines for County Employees
  5. Carbon County Emergency Declaration
  6. Carter County Disaster Declaration
  7. Cascade County Emergency Proclamation
    Word Doc for Possible Template
    Press Release
  8. Custer County Emergency Declaration
  9. Daniels County Emergency Declaration
  10. Dawson County Emergency Resolution
    (Does NOT Declare Emergency–This RECOGNIZES an emergency, closes nonessential departments, and waives sick/vacation for nonessential employees.)
    Word Doc for Possible Template
  11. Fallon County Disaster Declaration
    –  Closure of Courthouse & County Buildings
  12. Gallatin County Emergency Declaration
  13. Garfield County Emergency Declaration
  14. Glacier County Emergency & Disaster Declarations (linked below)
    Emergency Declaration
    Disaster Declaration
  15. Golden Valley County Disaster Declaration
    Courthouse & County Buildings Operations
  16. Granite County Emergency Declaration
  17. Hill County Emergency Declaration
  18. Jefferson County Emergency Declaration (nothing received as of yet)
    Public Access to County Offices & Buildings
  19. Lake County Emergency Declaration
  20. Lewis & Clark County Emergency Declaration
    Word Doc for Possible Template
    Message to County Employees
  21. Liberty County Disaster Declaration
  22. Madison County Emergency Declaration
  23. McCone County Disaster Declaration
  24. Meagher County Emergency Declaration
  25. Mineral County Emergency Declaration
  26. Missoula County Emergency Proclamation
  27. Musselshell County Disaster Declaration
  28. Park County Emergency Declaration
  29. Petroleum County Emergency Declaration
  30. Phillips County Emergency Declaration
  31. Pondera County Emergency Declaration
    Public Access to the Courthouse
  32. Powder River Emergency Declaration
  33. Powell County Disaster Declaration
    Word Doc for Possible Template
  34. Prairie County Emergency/Disaster Declaration (Announcement NOT Resolution)
  35. Ravalli County Emergency Proclamation
  36. Richland County Emergency Declaration
  37. Rosebud County Emergency Declaration
    Closure of Courthouse & County Buildings
  38. Roosevelt County Emergency Declaration
    Public Notice
  39. Sanders County Emergency Declaration (nothing received as of yet)
    Mailing Regarding Courthouse & Office Operations
  40. Sheridan County Emergency Declaration
  41. Stillwater County Emergency Declaration (Jointly with the City of Columbus)
  42. Sweet Grass County Emergency Declaration
    Word Doc for Possible Template
  43. Teton County Emergency Declaration
    Closure of Courthouse & County Buildings
  44. Tool County Emergency Declaration
  45. Treasure County Emergency Declaration
  46. Valley County Emergency Declaration
  47. Wibaux County Emergency & Disaster Declarations (linked below)
    Emergency Declaration
    Disaster Declaration
    Closure of Courthouse & County Buildings
  48. Yellowstone County Emergency Declaration (Jointly with City of Billings)

Title 7 (MCA), Local Government Statutes Pertinent to Counties During an Emergency/Disaster Situation

Title 7 (MCA) are the statutes that encompass the laws for local governments (both cities and counties).

Below are statutes from specific to counties.  (Click here to view statutes for all of Title 7.)

General Authority Of County Commissioners

7-5-2101. General authority of county commissioners.

(1) The board of county commissioners has jurisdiction and power, under such limitations and restrictions as are prescribed by law, to represent the county and have the care of the county property and the management of the business and concerns of the county in all cases where no other provision is made by law.
(2) The board has jurisdiction and power, under such limitations and restrictions as are prescribed by law, to perform all other acts and things required by law not enumerated in this title or which may be necessary to the full discharge of the duties of the chief executive authority of the county government.


Authorization To Transfer Funds For Emergency Relief

7-31-2101. Authorization to transfer funds for emergency relief.
Whenever the governor issues a proclamation declaring that an emergency exists in any county requiring the relief of suffering of the inhabitants caused by famine, destitution, conflagration, or other public calamity, the board of county commissioners of the county may transfer to the proper fund to be used for purposes of relief any money in any other fund or funds of the county, but money belonging to any bond sinking or interest fund or any school fund may not be transferred. The governor shall in the proclamation state the facts upon which the emergency is declared and shall specifically limit the time during which the transfers may be made.


County Offices

7-4-2211. County offices.

(1) All county officers, except justices of the peace as set forth in 3-10-101, must keep their offices at the county seat.

(2)(a) The sheriff, the county clerk, the clerk of the district court, the treasurer, the county attorney, the county auditor in counties in which that officer is maintained, and the county assessor shall keep their offices open for the transaction of business during the office hours determined by the governing body by resolution after a public hearing and only if consented to by any affected elected county officer, every day in the year except legal holidays and Saturdays.

(b) This subsection (2) does not apply to counties operating under the county manager plan.

Please see the Title 10 statutes below for information regarding the 2-mill emergency levy. 

Title 10 (MCA), Emergency/Disaster Statutes Pertinent to Counties During an Emergency/Disaster Situation

Title 10 (MCA) are the statutes that encompass the laws for disaster & emergency services (as well as military affairs).

Below are the statutes specific to local governments.  Click here to view statutes for all of Title 10.

Definitions

10-3-103. Definitions. As used in parts 1 through 4 of this chapter, the following definitions apply:
(1) ”All-hazard incident management assistance team” means a team that includes any combination of personnel representing local, state, or tribal entities that has been established by the state emergency response commission provided for in 10-3-1204 for the purpose of local incident management intended to mitigate the impacts of an incident prior to a disaster or emergency declaration.
(2) ”Civil defense” means the nuclear preparedness functions and responsibilities of disaster and emergency services.
(3) ”Department” means the department of military affairs.
(4) ”Disaster” means the occurrence or imminent threat of widespread or severe damage, injury, or loss of life or property resulting from any natural or artificial cause, including tornadoes, windstorms, snowstorms, wind-driven water, high water, floods, wave action, earthquakes, landslides, mudslides, volcanic action, fires, explosions, air or water contamination requiring emergency action to avert danger or damage, blight, droughts, infestations, riots, sabotage, hostile military or paramilitary action, disruption of state services, accidents involving radiation byproducts or other hazardous materials, outbreak of disease, bioterrorism, or incidents involving weapons of mass destruction.
(5) ”Disaster and emergency services” means the preparation for and the carrying out of disaster and emergency functions and responsibilities, other than those for which military forces or other state or federal agencies are primarily responsible, to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from injury and damage resulting from emergencies or disasters.
(6) ”Disaster medicine” means the provision of patient care by a health care provider during a disaster or emergency when the number of patients exceeds the capacity of normal medical resources, facilities, and personnel. Disaster medicine may include implementing patient care guidelines that depart from recognized nondisaster triage and standard treatment patient care guidelines determining the order of evacuation and treatment of persons needing care.
(7) ”Division” means the division of disaster and emergency services of the department.
(8) ”Emergency” means the imminent threat of a disaster causing immediate peril to life or property that timely action can avert or minimize.
(9)(a) ”Incident” means an event or occurrence, caused by either an individual or by natural phenomena, requiring action by disaster and emergency services personnel to prevent or minimize loss of life or damage to property or natural resources. The term includes the imminent threat of an emergency.

(b) The term does not include a state of emergency or disaster declared by the governor pursuant to 10-3-302 or 10-3-303.

(10) ”Political subdivision” means any county, city, town, or other legally constituted unit of local government in this state.
(11) ”Principal executive officer” means the mayor, presiding officer of the county commissioners, or other chief executive officer of a political subdivision.
(12) ”Temporary housing” means unoccupied habitable dwellings, suitable rental housing, mobile homes, or other readily fabricated dwellings.
(13) ”Tribal government” means the government of a federally recognized Indian tribe within the state of Montana.
(14) ”Volunteer professional” means an individual with an active, unrestricted license to practice a profession under the provisions of Title 37, Title 50, or the laws of another state.


Local And Interjurisdictional Disaster And Emergency Plan — Distribution

10-3-401. Local and interjurisdictional disaster and emergency plan — distribution.
(1)  Each political subdivision eligible to receive funds under this chapter shall prepare a local or interjurisdictional disaster and emergency plan and program covering the area for which that political subdivision is responsible. This plan shall be in accordance with and in support of the state disaster and emergency plan and program.
(2) The political subdivision shall prepare and distribute on behalf of the principal executive officers, in written form, a clear and complete statement of:

(a) the emergency responsibilities of all local agencies, if any, and officials;
(b) the disaster and emergency chain of command;
(c) local evacuation authority and responsibility; and
(d) local authority and responsibility for control of ingress and egress to and from an emergency or disaster area.


Local Emergency — Declaration And Termination

10-3-402. Local emergency — declaration and termination.
(1)  A local emergency proclamation or disaster declaration may be issued only by the principal executive officer of a political subdivision.
(2) An emergency proclamation may be issued by order or resolution whenever the principal executive officer determines there is an emergency.
(3) An emergency proclamation may terminate with a disaster declaration or when the principal executive officer determines that the emergency no longer exists.


Local Disaster — Declaration And Termination

10-3-403. Local disaster — declaration and termination.
(1) A disaster declaration may be issued by order or resolution whenever the principal executive officer determines a disaster is occurring or has occurred.
(2) A disaster declaration may be terminated when the principal executive officer determines that the disaster conditions no longer exist.


Contents Of Order — Effect

10-3-404. Contents of order — effect.
(1) An order or resolution declaring or terminating a state of emergency or disaster shall indicate the nature of the emergency or disaster, the area threatened, and the conditions which have brought about the proclamation or declaration or which make possible termination of the state of emergency or disaster. Such order or resolution shall be disseminated promptly by means calculated to bring its contents to the attention of the general public and shall be filed promptly with the division and the agency charged with recording the official records of the political subdivision.
(2) The effect of an emergency proclamation or a disaster declaration is to activate applicable parts of the local or interjurisdictional disaster and emergency plan and program and to authorize the furnishing of aid and assistance in accordance with such plans and programs.


Levying Emergency Tax — Disposition Of Surplus

10-3-405. Levying emergency tax — disposition of surplus.
(1) The governing body of the city or town or the governing body of the county, or both, shall estimate expenditures and levy an emergency millage to cover the expenditures. The millage levied by the governing body of the city or town shall not exceed 2 mills on the municipality’s taxable valuation. The millage levied by the governing body of the county shall not exceed 2 mills on the taxable valuation of the county outside the municipalities.
(2) No expenditure of revenue received from the millage shall be made without approval of the appropriate levying body.
(3) An additional levy or levies may be made by the appropriate levying body, providing that the sum of the levies for emergencies as set forth in this section shall not exceed 2 mills in any one year.
(4) All levies under this section may be passed only by a unanimous vote of the appropriate body.
(5) Funds levied for an emergency and remaining when no further expenditures are necessary shall remain in a separate emergency fund and shall be used only for expenditures arising from future emergencies.


Authority Of Principal Executive Officer

10-3-406. Authority of principal executive officer.
(1) Upon the declaration of an emergency or disaster under 10-3-402 or 10-3-403 and the issuance of an order as required by 10-3-404, the principal executive officer may:

(a) direct and compel the evacuation of all or part of the population from an incident or emergency or disaster area within that political subdivision when necessary for the preservation of life or other disaster mitigation, response, or recovery; and
(b) control the ingress and egress to and from an incident or emergency or disaster area and the movement of persons within the area.

(2) Subject to 7-33-2212(4)(a), the authority to control ingress and egress, as provided in subsection (1)(b), includes the authority to close wildland areas to access during periods of extreme fire danger.

Title 50 (MCA), Health & Safety Statutes Pertinent to Counties During an Emergency/Disaster Situation

Title 50 (MCA) are the statutes that encompass the laws for health & safety–these laws apply when ordering the closure of businesses.

Below are statutes from specific to counties.  (Click here to view statutes for all of Title 50.)

Powers And Duties Of Local Boards Of Health

50-2-116. Powers and duties of local boards of health.
(1) In order to carry out the purposes of the public health system, in collaboration with federal, state, and local partners, each local board of health shall:

(a) appoint and fix the salary of a local health officer who is:

(i) a physician;
(ii) a person with a master’s degree in public health; or
(iii) a person with equivalent education and experience, as determined by the department;

(b) elect a presiding officer and other necessary officers;
(c) employ qualified staff;
(d) adopt bylaws to govern meetings;
(e) hold regular meetings at least quarterly and hold special meetings as necessary;
(f) identify, assess, prevent, and ameliorate conditions of public health importance through:

(i) epidemiological tracking and investigation;
(ii) screening and testing;
(iii) isolation and quarantine measures;
(iv) diagnosis, treatment, and case management;
(v) abatement of public health nuisances;
(vi) inspections;
(vii) collecting and maintaining health information;
(viii) education and training of health professionals; or
(ix) other public health measures as allowed by law;

(g) protect the public from the introduction and spread of communicable disease or other conditions of public health importance, including through actions to ensure the removal of filth or other contaminants that might cause disease or adversely affect public health;
(h) supervise or make inspections for conditions of public health importance and issue written orders for compliance or for correction, destruction, or removal of the conditions;
(i) bring and pursue actions and issue orders necessary to abate, restrain, or prosecute the violation of public health laws, rules, and local regulations;
(j) identify to the department an administrative liaison for public health. The liaison must be the local health officer in jurisdictions that employ a full-time local health officer. In jurisdictions that do not employ a full-time local health officer, the liaison must be the highest ranking public health professional employed by the jurisdiction.
(k) subject to the provisions of 50-2-130, adopt necessary regulations that are not less stringent than state standards for the control and disposal of sewage from private and public buildings and facilities that are not regulated by Title 75, chapter 6, or Title 76, chapter 4. The regulations must describe standards for granting variances from the minimum requirements that are identical to standards promulgated by the board of environmental review and must provide for appeal of variance decisions to the department as required by 75-5-305. If the local board of health regulates or permits water well drilling, the regulations must prohibit the drilling of a well if the well isolation zone, as defined in 76-4-102, encroaches onto adjacent private property without the authorization of the private property owner.

(2) Local boards of health may:

(a) accept and spend funds received from a federal agency, the state, a school district, or other persons or entities;
(b) adopt necessary fees to administer regulations for the control and disposal of sewage from private and public buildings and facilities;
(c) adopt regulations that do not conflict with 50-50-126 or rules adopted by the department:

(i) for the control of communicable diseases;
(ii) for the removal of filth that might cause disease or adversely affect public health;
(iii) subject to the provisions of 50-2-130, for sanitation in public and private buildings and facilities that affects public health and for the maintenance of sewage treatment systems that do not discharge effluent directly into state water and that are not required to have an operating permit as required by rules adopted under 75-5-401;
(iv) subject to the provisions of 50-2-130 and Title 50, chapter 48, for tattooing and body-piercing establishments and that are not less stringent than state standards for tattooing and body-piercing establishments;
(v) for the establishment of institutional controls that have been selected or approved by the:

(A) United States environmental protection agency as part of a remedy for a facility under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, 42 U.S.C. 9601, et seq.; or
(B) department of environmental quality as part of a remedy for a facility under the Montana Comprehensive Environmental Cleanup and Responsibility Act, Title 75, chapter 10, part 7; and

(vi) to implement the public health laws; and

(d) promote cooperation and formal collaborative agreements between the local board of health and tribes, tribal organizations, and the Indian health service regarding public health planning, priority setting, information and data sharing, reporting, resource allocation, service delivery, jurisdiction, and other matters addressed in this title.

(3) A local board of health may provide, implement, facilitate, or encourage other public health services and functions as considered reasonable and necessary.


Powers And Duties Of Local Health Officers

50-2-118. Powers and duties of local health officers. 7-31-2101. Authorization to transfer funds for emergency relief.
In order to carry out the purpose of the public health system, in collaboration with federal, state, and local partners, local health officers or their authorized representatives shall:

(1) make inspections for conditions of public health importance and issue written orders for compliance or for correction, destruction, or removal of the condition;
(2) take steps to limit contact between people in order to protect the public health from imminent threats, including but not limited to ordering the closure of buildings or facilities where people congregate and canceling events;
(3) report communicable diseases to the department as required by rule;
(4) establish and maintain quarantine and isolation measures as adopted by the local board of health; and
(5) pursue action with the appropriate court if this chapter or rules adopted by the local board or department under this chapter are violated.

Additional Resources

State of Montana Joint Information Center Contact Information
  • Email inquiries: Covid19info@mt.gov
  • By Phone: (888) 333-0461
  • Social Media: @MontanaDES (Twitter); Facebook.com/MontanaDES (Facebook); @MontanaDES406 (Instagram)

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