Tester Announces $680,000 for New Job Training Program on Flathead Reservation

Senator Helps Launch Commercial Driverâ??s License Training Program

(Great Falls, Mont.) – Less than a week after his tribal business startup bill received a hearing in the Indian Affairs Committee, Vice Chairman Jon Tester announced today that the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) will receive a $680,000 grant to fund a job training program on the reservation.

This funding will go towards establishing a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) training program on the reservation, helping tribal members obtain the necessary qualifications to drive buses, vans, and other large, commercial vehicles.

“Indian Country thrives when we empower folks on the ground to create jobs and strengthen their local economies,” Tester said. “That’s why these resources are critical to achieving self-reliance and stronger communities.”

The grant comes from the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) 2016 Bus and Bus Facilities Competitive Program, which was established to expand employment, transportation and mobility options throughout the country. The tribe had originally received a grant to start this training program a few years ago, but the funding was due to run out this year.

“We’re very thankful to have this funding, it came just in time so we can prepare for next year,” said CSKT’s Transit Program Manager Corky Sias. “Most of the time getting a CDL requires you to own a truck or already be employed. But through our program, tribal members can sign up and go through a six-week training where we provided the equipment and endorsements, so it’s really gives them a leg up on getting a job.”

So far, the program has enrolled 89 students-all of whom now have Commercial Drivers Licenses. Sias notes that many of these graduates now work for the tribe, but these licenses are crucial to getting a job outside the reservation as well.

The FTA’s Bus Program is made possible by the long-term Highway Bill that Tester helped draft and get signed into law last year.

Tester fought to change the formula through which the Bus Program’s funding is allocated so that the grants would be more evenly distributed between urban and rural areas – helping direct the funding to projects in Montana.

“Rural transit systems play a critical role in our economy by enhancing options for rural citizens to access health care, employment and education,” Tester wrote. “I strongly believe making investments in our nation’s infrastructure is essential to building a 21st century economy for our children.”

Tester also led efforts to prioritize funding for transportation infrastructure and safety throughout Indian Country as the Senate drafted and debated the Highway Bill. As a result, the bill includes a 12 percent increase over the next five years in the Tribal Transportation Program.

The Highway Bill also reauthorized the Federal Highway Administration’s Accelerated Innovation Deployment Demonstration (AID) Program, which provides funding for projects that utilize locally sourced materials and local labor to promote innovative transportation methods.

The CSKT recently received $115,000 in funding through this program to increase safety and bolster infrastructure by replacing the reservation’s North Valley Creek Bridge.