Tester Secures $20 Billion for Vaccine Distribution in COVID Relief Package, Millions for Montana Workers and Small Businesses

Investments will significantly ramp up production, procurement and distribution of vaccines, allow for Montana’s economy to reopen faster

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced that he secured major wins for Montana in the latest coronavirus relief package, including $20 billion for vaccine production, procurement, and distribution that will help ensure every Montanan who wants a vaccine can receive one.

“This package will make sure every Montanan who wants a vaccine can get one-getting folks back to work faster, fully reopening schools sooner, and reviving Montana’s economy as quickly as possible,” said Tester. “But we aren’t there yet, which is why in the meantime this bill provides targeted relief for Montanans hurting from this crisis, including support for hard-hit small businesses and delivering on former President Trump’s goal of sending larger checks to Montana families. My number one priority is getting this virus under control so we can get our economy back on track, and I’m going to keep pushing to make sure this legislation meets that need for rural America.”

For weeks, Senator Tester has been pressuring the Biden Administration to match supply with demand for vaccines by increasing the number of doses shipped to Montana, which has done a good job of administering shots efficiently. This legislation, which includes $20 billion in vaccine funding pushed for by Senator Tester, will help eliminate those shortfalls and quickly ramp up production and distribution so businesses can safely reopen as soon as possible.

Additionally, as Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Tester secured $17 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to bolster COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts, address deferred health care needs, tackle the claims backlog, provide job training opportunities, assist State Veterans Homes by mitigating funding gaps, and waive health care copayments for veterans during the economic crisis.

Over the past year, Tester has held hundreds of meetings with Montana’s workers, small business owners, frontline health care workers, educators, Tribes, and local officials to solicit input about what Montanans need to make it through this crisis. In addition to vaccine funding, Tester used that grassroots input to fight for and secure a number of critical, targeted Montana priorities in this package that will help ensure that hard-hit Montanans are made whole:

  • $1,400 checks for Montanans who make less than $75,000 a year, or $150,000 a year as a couple-a bipartisan policy endorsed by former President Trump. The package also includes additional funding for children, which means a Montana family who makes less than $150,000 a year with two kids under the age of six will receive $6,200 and will be eligible for new childcare benefits
  • Tester’s legislation to restore full, long-distance Amtrak service on routes like the Empire Builder and reinstate furloughed employees
  • $60 billion for existing and new COVID relief programs to aid a wider range of small businesses, particularly in the hospitality, travel, and entertainment industries, including $25 billion for a new grant program tailored to local restaurants (Montana-specific allocations to come)
  • Hundreds of millions for K-12 schools in Montana (local allocations to come)
  • $94.4 million for Montana higher education institutions
  • Direct funding for Montana’s cities, towns, and counties (local allocations to come)
  • $8.5 billion for rural hospitals (Montana-specific allocations to come)
  • $31.2 billion for Tribal COVID response, vaccine distribution, and emergency housing and social services in Indian Country (Montana-specific allocations to come)
  • $32.8 million for Montana airports
  • $7.5 million for Montana transit agencies
  • $750 million in dedicated funding for the hardest hit travel, tourism, or outdoor recreation businesses

Tester is continuing to work to ensure the final coronavirus package meets the needs of Montanans. He has repeatedly said that he will only support this package if it is targeted, ensures every Montanan who wants a vaccine can get one, supports fully reopening schools, and provides badly-needed relief for hard-hit Montana workers and small businesses.

Tester has worked tirelessly since the beginning of this pandemic to provide targeted relief to Montana. He secured $1.25 billion for Montana as a part of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act as well as $11 billion as a part of the support the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. In December, he fought successfully to include an additional $4.5 billion for vaccine distribution and administration in the end of year COVID relief package.