Published April 17, 2020

Action Needed

Yesterday, the Paycheck Protection Program ran out of money, and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program also dried up. This is putting mounting pressure on Congress to pass another COVID-19 relief package.

Why is This Important for Montana’s Counties?

When Congress passed the CARES Act, which provided for the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund (of which the State of Montana is receiving $1.25 billion for unbudgeted COVID-19 response costs), they thought they made the requirement that 45% go to local government. Unfortunately, the bill was written to define local government as an area with a population over 500,000 people, which excludes all of Montana’s counties and most of the western region counties from the direct allocation.

Since the bill’s passage, there has been pressure put on the US Treasury to provide guidance and include reasonable allowable expenses for local governments. Treasury has stated that local governments must have 500,000 in population to provide for “certification for payment,” and dollars must be used for unbudgeted COVID-19 response costs. This is incredibly limiting for Montana, whose COVID-19 response costs will be low compared to the lost revenue caused by the COVID-19 response (lost revenue is specifically NOT an allowable expense).

The Governor’s Office and our Congressional Delegation have been supportive of local government during this unprecedented time, and while we have faith that the State will come up with some criteria to offer financial assistance to counties for COVID-19 response costs, we cannot give up on efforts for direct flexible funding to local governments under 500,000.  MACo has a seat on the task force created by Governor Bullock to help prioritize the use of the CARES Act funding, and we will continue to advocate for your best interests.

We must also remain vigilant and steadfast in our messaging at the federal level. We are asking that you please reach out to our Congressional Delegation and reiterate Montana’s priorities—we’ve attached a template letter to help kick-start the process (please modify it to fit your county).

Shantil Siaperas  |  Communications Director  |  shantil@mtcounties.org  |  (406) 449-4360