HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock held a news conference to "address an uptick in new cases" of COVID-19 as the state reopens.
He also announced a new loan deferment program aimed to "help medium and larger sized businesses free up capital and promote sustainability over the long term," according to a press release.
Watch the full news conference below.
The Montana Loan Deferment Program will allow businesses and other entities to defer payments on existing loans for six to 12 months and free up a significant amount of otherwise dedicated capital for the borrower to leverage on a monthly basis. If a borrower is approved for the program, coronavirus relief funds will be used to provide payments to participating lenders to cover interest payments for six-to-12 months, up to 6% or $150, 000.
“Through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, we’ve been able to consider and begin meeting the needs across all sectors of the economy and in all corners of the state,” Governor Bullock said. “The funds we’ve distributed have gotten Montanans back to work, stabilized businesses, provided a safety net for individuals, and jumpstarted industries while considering what support should be available to ensure long term sustainability.”
The amount currently dedicated to this program could help defer between 5,000 and 10,000 loans and free up capital to bring stability for businesses and other entities in the long term, according to a news release.
“This program will provide a much needed lifeline to many Montana small businesses to help them recover from the impact of COVID-19 and allow them to get stronger for the future,” said Randy Chesler, CEO of Glacier Bancorp.
“This program will not only provide much needed relief to Montana businesses, it will do so in a way that allows the state’s banks to mitigate risks in the marketplace. Montana’s community banks have stepped up in a big way and will continue to do so through this program in order to help the people of Montana get through this crisis,” said Andy West, President of Eagle Bank in Polson.
To be eligible, borrowers must have experienced a 25 percent reduction in gross revenue due to COVID-19. The borrower must also not have access to 12 months of working capital from any other source and be actively registered with the Secretary of State to do business in Montana. The full eligibility criteria are available at COVIDRELIEF.MT.GOV.
The program will be jointly administered by the Board of Investments and the Department of Revenue. Borrowers will apply through their existing lender, which will submit the application to the Board of Investments and Revenue for review and payment if approved. Recipients will be listed on the transparency website that is updated weekly.
For businesses seeking access to new capital, the state is currently developing a program that will assist those with needs for new capital.
The following programs have been created in under two months using funding through $1.25 billion in federal emergency relief funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act:
- Montana Meat Processing Infrastructure Grant, Montana Department of Agriculture
- Montana Business Adaptation Program, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation
- Montana Business Stabilization Program, Montana Department of Commerce
- Montana Innovation Grant Program, Governor’s Office of Economic Development
- Montana Food and Agriculture Adaptability Program, Montana Department of Agriculture
- Local Government Reimbursement Program
- Emergency Housing Assistance Program, Montana Department of Commerce
- Public Health Grants, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services,
- Stay Connected Grants, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
- Food Bank and Food Pantry Assistance, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
- Social Services Nonprofit Grants, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
- Telework Assistance Grants, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
An additional 18 cases were reported by the Montana Response COVID-19 tracking map on Wednesday morning, including two in Flathead and Missoula counties and one new case in Ravalli County.
There are currently 72 active COVID-19 cases. There have been 20 COVID-19 related deaths to date in the Treasure State including one reported Tuesday in Big Horn County.
Montana has begun statewide testing of individuals who are asymptomatic for COIVD-19. The testing -- through an initiative by Gov. Steve Bullock -- is completely free to the individual and paid for by the State of Montana.
Montana moved to "phase two" of Gov. Bullock's "Reopening The Big Sky" plan on Monday, June 1. Bullock noted that Montana continues to have the lowest number of positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations per capita in the nation.
Bullock outlined the following indicators which prompted him - in consultation with public health officials and disaster response personnel - to move into Phase Two beginning on June 1:
- A downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period.
- The current ability to contact and trace, along with plans to add additional contact tracers to the existing workforce.
- Ensuring that health care workers have the supplies they need to treat COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.
- Ramping up testing capacity to eventually meet a target of 60,000 tests a month and prioritizing testing for vulnerable Montanans and tribal communities. A total of 5,600 tests were conducted last week. Increased testing continues with sentinel testing efforts in nursing homes and assisting living facilities, testing events in tribal areas, and drive through testing being conducted at a few sites.
Here are some of the highlights of phase two:
- Avoid gatherings in groups of more than 50 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing. Groups larger than 50 people should be canceled unless physical distancing can be maintained. It is recommended to continue to social distance in gatherings of any size.
- Restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries, and casinos remains in the same operations status as Phase One, but with an increase to 75% capacity.
- Gyms, indoor group fitness classes, pool, and hot tubs can operate at 75% capacity and only if they can adhere to strict physical distancing and they exercise frequent sanitation protocols.
- Concert halls, bowling alleys, and other places of assembly may operate with reduced capacity and if they adhere to strict physical distancing guidelines.
- All businesses are required to follow the social distancing and sanitation guidelines established in Phase One, and Montanans are strongly encouraged to continue sanitation practices, including hand washing and wearing masks in public places like grocery stores.