Tester Secures Commitment from Treasury Secretary that American Rescue Plan’s $340 Million Meant for Montana Municipalities Can’t be Skimmed Off the Top by States
Senator fought to secure direct funding for Montana cities, towns, and counties in American Rescue Plan, was only member of Montana delegation to vote in favor
Following his successful push to include direct, targeted funding for local communities in the recent COVID-19 relief bill, U.S. Senator Jon Tester secured a commitment from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen that municipalities across Montana will receive critical relief money without risk of the state government skimming off the top. Tester recently announced that he secured a projected $1.37 billion total for Montana state, county, and local governments; $133 million of which will go to Montana cities and towns, and $207 million to counties.
At a recent Senate Banking Committee hearing, Tester questioned Yellen about how funding directly allocated for municipalities in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 will be rolled out, specifically asking if the Treasury was planning to follow the intent of Congress by ensuring that states aren't able to intercept or redirect the critical funds. Tester worked directly with Montana mayors and county commissioners to ensure that funding would go straight to their communities and was the only member of the Montana delegation to vote for the relief package.
"Different localities face different challenges, but the fact is there was a concerted effort to make sure that we get some money to municipalities without the states skimming off any money," said Tester. "And not only municipalities that are large, but municipalities of all sizes. Are you committed to making sure that these funds make it to the smallest of towns that haven't received any assistance yet without the states skimming any money off the top, or adding additional restrictions that weren't included in the legislation or Treasury's guidance?"
Secretary Yellen confirmed that Treasury would be following Congressional intent and issuing a guidance within 60 days that will ensure the state has no discretion to alter or withhold the allocated funding, ensuring it makes it into the hands of Montana municipalities. Local funding will go directly to localities with populations of 50,000 or more, and for smaller areas, the funds will be disbursed through the state within 30 days.
"The municipalities-or counties-in Montana are very thankful for these dollars," said Tester. "They've been running on shoestring budgets for ever and this is the first time they're going to be able to make some real improvements in their counties and municipalities, and plus being able to pay for police officers and fire departments and make sure the garbage gets picked up."
Tester also clarified that communities will have flexibility in their use of the funding, ensuring that they will have the ability to use it for plugging revenue shortfalls, covering costs, and investing in certain infrastructure projects.
Tester has been working diligently to ensure that Montana communities-big and small-have the resources they need to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. He pushed to ensure that the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 included critical funding to get vaccines into the arms of every Montanan who wants one, helps get individuals back to work faster, reopens schools sooner, and revives the economy as quick as possible. He also fought to ensure the package restored full service and reinstates furloughed employees to Amtrak's Empire Builder Line, and provided more than $380 million to help Montana's K-12 schools reopen safely and quickly.
Watch Tester's full questioning of Secretary Yellen HERE.