Senate advances funding to boost opportunities for Montana businesses, students

Measures create loan funds for businesses and invest in higher education

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Montana’s U.S. senators call it a “smart investment” in new opportunities for small businesses and students—no matter where they live in the Treasure State.

Senator Jon Tester and his colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee today approved two pieces of legislation that will boost two small business loan funds and several higher education initiatives.

The measures include the following funding:

  • Big Sky Economic Development Authority’s Government Contractor Revolving Loan Fund – The Billings-based organization will create a revolving loan fund to provide Montana contractors the resources needed to pay up-front costs in order to bid for and execute government contracts. ($100,000)
  • High Plains Financial’s Intermediary Relending Program based in Great Falls – High Plains Financial will use funding as equity in its Intermediary Loan Fund, which will benefit small business in central Montana. ($125,000)
  • The Student Assistance Foundation’s Grad Ready initiative – The Helena-based Student Assistance Foundation will use the funding to help launch a statewide financial literacy pilot project to prepare students for financial aid, in-school finances and repayments. ($100,000)
  • The University of Montana’s Remote Sixth-Through-Eighth Mathematics (STEM) Curriculum Development initiative – UM will use funding to strengthen the “Montana Digital Academy,” a virtual school whose online classes are available at no cost to Montana students. ($100,000) 
  • Flathead Valley Community College’s High Tech Careers initiative – The Kalispell college will use funding to expand the health care training center.  ($100,000)

“Access to capital is one of the top concerns I hear from small businesses as I travel the state,” said Tester, who hosted four well-attended Small Business Opportunity Workshops over the past year.  “Investing in loan funds for Montana businesses is an investment in our economy, in good-paying jobs statewide, and in new opportunities for the future.”
“It’s very important to prepare Montana’s students to deal with financial aid and to make sure they have access to online and high-tech opportunities,” Baucus said.  “This is funding that will go a long way in rebuilding Montana’s economy and keeping our state at the forefront of a fast-changing world.”
Funding for the two loan funds and the Grad Ready initiative is included in the Financial Services Appropriations Act.  Funding for other the higher education initiatives is included in the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Act.

The legislation must first pass the full Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives before the funding can be signed into law.

For a full list of funding for Montana under the Financial Services Appropriations Act, click HERE.

For a full list of funding for Montana under the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Act, click HERE.

What is an appropriations bill?
  • A federal appropriations bill funds the federal government.  12 appropriations bills will fund the federal government for the next Fiscal Year.
  • Less than one half of one percent of these appropriations bills consist of congressionally directed funding (also called “earmarks”).  This funding is not additional spending for the federal government, nor does it increase federal deficit.  Rather, it is a set of directions telling the government where it must use existing funds.
  • In the past, appropriations funding had been abused by anonymous requests with little transparency.
  • Since 2007, the process was overhauled to guarantee transparency and fair debate in Congress.
  • All of Tester’s and Baucus’ appropriations requests are online HERE and HERE.