ABC Fox Montana: Butte-Silver Bow, Anaconda-Deer Lodge likely to receive ARPA funds after initial exclusion
BUTTE, Mont. — It was a very merry Christmas for two Montana counties in particular.
After both Butte-Silver Bow and Anaconda-Deer Lodge were initially excluded from receiving federal assistance due to legislative language loopholes, it’s looking like they’ll be receiving that funding after all.
“Your first impulse is, ‘there’s a mistake,'” said Anaconda-Deer Lodge chief executive Bill Everett. “Why would we be the only two counties in the state not entitled to receive that funding?”
That was the thought going through the minds of executives in both Butte-Silver Bow and Anaconda-Deer Lodge after receiving word that the two counties would not be supported by the Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund via the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
At the time, legislation excluded consolidated governments, such as B-SB and A-DLC, from receiving the funding.
“I did my research, and I found that 54 counties in Montana were set to receive the funding,” Butte-Silver Bow chief executive J.P. Gallagher said. “Butte-Silver Bow and Anaconda-Deer Lodge were not going to receive that money.”
“It was shocking,” Gallagher continued. “It was disappointing because we are still in a county and should receive the same appropriate funds that everybody else did.”
But after working with Montana officials, including senator Jon Tester, a resolution seems imminent.
The Local Assistance Fairness Act, which includes consolidated governments in its language, was approved by congress last week. And as the law makes its way through President Biden’s desk, Butte-Silver Bow and Anaconda-Deer Lodge should soon be the recipients of approximately $1.2 million each in assistance funds.
As Gallagher says, that money will help keep taxpayers from emptying their pockets.
“There’s things that, if we don’t get this money [to fulfill] those needs, ultimately the taxpayers will have to fund those somewhere down the line,” Gallagher said. “So, we want to be really thoughtful with how we use these funds. It’s significant for what we can do locally.”
Both counties had previously utilized ARPA funds for projects such as improving water and sewer systems, as well as funding workforce development programs, like those at Montana Tech’s Highlands College.
But there’s always more work to be done.
“Right now, the emphasis for Deer Lodge County is road construction projects,” Everett said. “We were actually going to have to cut back on some of our road projects. Now, we’ll be able to fulfill those this summer.”
Meanwhile in Butte, Gallagher says that they don’t have any plans in place yet because they weren’t expecting to get funding. Once 2023 rolls around, Butte-Silver Bow will start discussing plans for allocating the funding, with infrastructure likely being a focal point.