As President Signs COVID-19 Package into Law, Montana to Receive $1.25 Billion Secured by Tester

The $1.25 billion for Montana’s coronavirus relief fund was not included in Mitch McConnell’s initial legislation

As the President signed the Phase III Coronavirus legislative package into law, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced further details of the $1.25 billion coronavirus relief fund now available to Montana.

This money is a part of $150 billion made available to state, local, and Tribal governments to set up local relief funds. These funds were not included in Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s initial draft legislation but were added as a result of negotiations by Senator Tester and his colleagues to make sure the package was directed at providing relief to working Montanans and small businesses, and not just corporations.

“Now that this bill is law, I’m going to fight aggressively to ensure Montana workers and small businesses can immediately access the relief they need,” said Tester. “Montana’s state, local, and Tribal governments are fighting on the front lines of this pandemic, and I fought tooth and nail to secure $1.25 billion in this final package so our state has as many tools as possible to keep our communities healthy and safe. But our fight against effects of this virus is just beginning: I’ll be working to make sure this money is getting swiftly into the hands of the folks that need it, and continuing to push for investments in the medical equipment our state so desperately needs to contain the disease.”

Montana’s $1.25 billion in funding is available directly to the state from the Treasury Department and it requires no state or local matching requirement. Montana will be able to use these funds for necessary expenditures to secure Montana’s public health and combat the outbreak, including construction of emergency beds as well as the purchase of personal protective equipment, masks, and medical supplies, among others.

Tester also fought for and secured $10 billion for Tribal governments to help them respond to COVID-19, including $300 million for Tribal housing initiatives, as well as $20 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Tester has been working tirelessly to ensure that Montana is prepared to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Senate on Wednesday, after 72 hours negotiating substantial, bipartisan improvements to COVID-19 stimulus legislation that had previously fallen far short, Tester voted to deliver critical, urgent relief to Montana workers, families, small businesses, hospitals and others hardest hit by the outbreak. Because of his efforts, the law will include:

  • For small businesses
    • $10 billion for SBA emergency grants of up to $10,000 to provide immediate relief for small business operating costs.
    • $17 billion for SBA to cover 6 months of payments for small businesses with existing SBA loans.
    • A Small Business Paycheck Protection Program to provide loans for small businesses, nonprofits, vet and self-employed individuals to cover 8-weeks of payroll, mortgage interest, rent and utility costs that will be up to 100 percent forgivable for Main Street businesses that fully maintain their workforce.
  • For workers and families
    • $1,200 one-time payment for Americans making less than $75,000, with an additional $500 per child
    • Unemployment Insurance maximum benefits are increased by $600 per week to ensure laid-off workers, on average, will receive their full pay for four months, and this applies to all workers whether they work for small, medium or large businesses, along with self-employed and gig workers – McConnell’s plan only offered three months of benefits
    • Income tax exclusion for individuals who are receiving student loan repayment assistance from their employer
  • For hospitals, health care workers, emergency medical services and equipment
    • $150 billion for direct aid to our health care system, including $100 billion for hospitals – this is a $55 billion increase for hospitals from the McConnell bill
    • $1.3 billion in funding for community health centers to continue operations through November 30, 2020, beyond the current funding cliff of May 22, 2020
    • $16 billion to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile with pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health workers and other medical supplies – McConnell bill only had $1.7 billion
    • $11 billion in new funds to support development of a vaccine and other therapeutics for COVID-19, including $156 million for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease to accelerate research and development of treatment and vaccines
    • $850 million in Byrne JAG funding to help state and local law enforcement purchase PPE and pay for officer overtime
    • $100 million for Assistance to Firefighter grants to help ensure local firefighters and EMTs have equipment
    • $45 million for Family Violence Prevention Services Grants to assist victims of domestic violence
    • $200 million for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to assist nursing homes with infection control – McConnell bill did not include anything for nursing homes
    • $425 million for mental health funding – McConnell bill did not include anything for mental health
  • For state, local and Tribal governments
    • $150 billion for a state, tribal and local Coronavirus Relief fund with an $8 billion tribal set aside – McConnell bill did not include any funds for state, local or Tribal governments
    • $30.75 billion in funding for an Education Stabilization Fund – the McConnell did not include any additional funding for education
    • $13.5 billion for K-12 schools to respond to the urgent needs of their students in the midst of school closures
    • $14.25 billion for colleges, universities and institutions of higher education to directly support students and institutions
    • $400 million to help states prepare to for the 2020 elections while keeping voters and poll workers safe
  • For veterans the McConnell bill did not include any funding for VA
    • $19.6 billion to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), including;
      • $14 billion for essential medical and protective equipment including the purchase of testing kits, personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies
      • $2.15 billion to bolster telehealth capabilities
      • $13 million to safeguard VA benefits
  • For Tribes the McConnell bill did not include any specific funding for Indian Country aside from a slight Indian Health Service increase
    • More than $10 billion for Indian Country:
      • $8 billion in emergency funds to help Tribes recover from the effects of COVID-19
      • $1 billion to the Indian Health Service to support Tribal health care system response efforts
      • $453 million for operation of essential Tribal government services funded through the Bureau of Indian Affairs
      • $100 million in additional funding for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
      • $69 million to help Tribal schools, colleges and universities through the Bureau of Indian Education
      • $300 million in additional funding for the Indian Tribal Block Grant program
  • For rural Montana
    • $9.5 billion in assistance for agricultural producers, including fresh-produce farmers and livestock producers
    • $42 billion in investments in both airports and their workers, as well as increased funding for Essential Air Service. It also provides loans to airlines as well as direct payroll payments for airline employees and new authority for the Department of Transportation to keep passenger air service flying to rural America
    • $1 billion to Amtrak, which will help maintain long-distance routes, and $25 billion to transit systems so that they can remain operational and prepared for the pandemic
  • For accountability all provisions are new, none were included in the McConnell bill
    • Eliminates “secret bailout” provision that would have allowed bailouts to corporations to be concealed for 6 months under the McConnell plan
    • Creates a Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery at the Department of Treasury to prevent and identify any incidents of waste, fraud and abuse
    • Establishes a Pandemic Response Accountability Committee to oversee loans to businesses to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent efficiently and effectively
    • Prohibit businesses controlled by the President, Vice President, Members of Congress and heads of Executive Departments from receiving loans or investments from Treasury programs
    • Ban stock buybacks for the term of the government assistance plus 1 year on any company receiving a government loan from the bill