Montana Fully Authorized to Use ARPA Funds, Treasury Secretary Confirms in Banking Hearing with Senator Tester

Secretary Yellen: “Senator, there is no restriction that Montana faces in using the funds that have been allocated, or making plans to use the funds that will be made available in the second tranche.”

During Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs hearing today, Treasury Secretary Yellen confirmed to U.S. Senator Jon Tester that the state of Montana is authorized to use all currently received American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for critical projects like water and broadband investments. Tester also confirmed that Montana can start planning how to use the second round of ARPA funding without additional input from the Department of Treasury, debunking concerns from state officials.

Senator Tester was the only member of Montana’s Congressional delegation to vote for the ARPA.

“I’ve heard some concerns that in Montana, some of the funds that you’ve already gotten out from Treasury to the states specifically aren’t getting out for projects – and that proposes some problems, especially with winter coming up in Montana. And we might miss opportunities to make upgrades to broadband, or other critical investments,” said Tester. “I have heard some folks in Montana leadership, blaming this confusion on the Treasury Department, because the funding is coming in two tranches. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Secretary Yellen, beyond the restrictions on uses of these funds provided by Congress and through Treasury’s guidance, is there anything that the Treasury department is doing which would prevent states like Montana from receiving the funds in two tranches, and using the funds that they have already received now?”

“Senator, there is no restriction that Montana faces in using the funds that have been allocated, or making plans to use the funds that will be made available in the second tranche,” responded Yellen. “That can be done now, there’s absolutely no need to wait.”

Tester continued: “Do they need your approval to start planning what they might use the rest of the funds for? And to clarify: state’s with split payments, do not need Treasury’s approval to start getting the funds that they already have out the door. That’s correct? Just to make it absolutely clear.”

“That’s correct, and they can plan how they intend to use the second tranche as well,” said Yellen. “They can begin doing that now.”

Tester fought hard to secure $1.89 billion in State and Local Fiscal Recover Funds for Montana’s state, county, and local governments that will help cover unexpected costs associated with the pandemic. The projected $1.37 billion secured by Tester for Montana in the new Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Relief Fund can be used to plug revenue shortfalls accrued during the crisis so localities do not have to cut critical services. The targeted relief can also be used to cover increased expenses associated with the public health response to the virus, like securing additional personal protective equipment for first responders and helping counties shoulder the costs of safely reopening schools.

This funding from ARPA is being issued to Montana in two tranches, the first of which has already been received by the state, and the second of which will be issued in 2022, according to Yellen. The funding that has been received can immediately be issued to projects around Montana at the discretion of Governor Greg Gianforte to qualifying projects. As of September 28th, the state of Montana has issued only $193.1 million in funding to projects across the state.

This week, Tester led a bipartisan group of his colleagues in urging Secretary Yellen to make critical Montana water projects eligible for funding available through ARPA. As communities across the west respond to and recover from historic drought, Tester argued that dam and reservoir projects like the Milk River Project should be included in the water infrastructure portion of the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Final Rule to provide relief and maintain an adequate water supply. Currently, only specific projects related to drinking water are eligible for relief funds.