BOZEMAN — The USDA has issued an Emergency Rural Health Care Grant of $500 million, to aid in COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and other heath-related organizations, including food banks.
“Both Covid recovery and economic recovery are major priorities. Over the last half-year, the Administration has spent a great deal of time working on key previsions to help rural communities thrive,” Justin Maxson said.
Maxson is the Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development, in the United States Department of Agriculture, and states how this grant will be split into two tracks of applicants: Recovery and Impact.
The Recovery Track, directly responds to the hardships of the pandemic and methods that may be utilized to ‘recover’ and revitalized what was lost, Maxson said. These methods may be expanding vaccination efforts and access, construct vaccination sites, and assisting local food banks with needed resources, Maxson said.
When discussing, specifically the state of Montana, $2.7 million has been awarded to our recovery track. Applications for this grant will be Oct. 12, 2021, and will be reviewed by those in the state of Montana.
“It’s a huge lift for us, and we’re up for the challenge. Our staff is going to pick up how we spread that out…building some facilities, COVID vaccination sites, helping out food banks,” Justin Ceartin said.
Ceartin is the Acting State Director for Rural Development in Montana and goes on to identify who is eligible for the ‘recovery’ track of the grant. Towns, townships, federally-recognized tribal lands that have 20,000 residents or fewer are considered ‘rural’; therefore, community-based non-profits, public bodies, and federally-recognized tribes are eligible to apply.
“We have offices across the state, we have thirty plus staff across the state as well. We encourage people to reach out to our staff and make sure that they are available for any questions they have so we can work through all the intricacies to the program,” Ceartin said.
Though the Impact Track is not run through the state, instead of by our national government, Montana’s allotment is not yet determined. A point system has been put in place for applicants of the Impact Track, such as demographic information about their community.
Ceartin adds that this grant money will not only be allocated to health departments but will add jobs to rural areas of Montana.
“As these smaller facilities are able to expand and survive after the pandemic, they are going to have the opportunity to bring staff on in these hospitals, in these food banks. It will help the community survive with staffing numbers,” Ceartin said.
The Rural Development Twitter Account: @RD_Montana will offer up-to-date information regarding the grants.