Tester Statement on COVID Package with Vaccine Funding, Relief for Montana Workers and Small Businesses Becoming Law

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today released the following statement after President Joe Biden signed the COVID relief package into law:

“This targeted 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. But we aren’t there yet, which is why in the meantime this bill provides the 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. Now that it’s been signed into law, I’m going to push to get relief into the hands of Montanans as fast as possible while providing strict oversight to ensure the federal government is held accountable.”

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 securing $20 billion in 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:

  • Checks for Montanans up to $1,400 who make less than $80,000 a year, or $160,000 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 will receive more than $5,600 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
  • $63 billion for existing and new COVID relief programs to aid a wider range of small businesses, particularly in the hospitality and entertainment industries, including $750 million in dedicated funding for the hardest hit travel, tourism, or outdoor recreation businesses and $28.6 billion for a new grant program tailored to local restaurants
  • $382 million for Montana K-12 schools, of which $19.1 million will go towards addressing learning loss and $3.8 million each for both summer enrichment and afterschool programs
  • $94.4 million for higher education in Montana – the overwhelming majority of which (about 90 percent) will go towards direct grants to public and private nonprofit institutions of higher education and postsecondary vocational schools
  • $17 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs 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
  • A projected $1.369 billion in direct funding for Montana’s cities, towns, and counties and to the State of Montana for health and economic crisis response, a capital projects fund to address water, sewer, and broadband needs, and additional funding for Montana Tribes
  • $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