Uncertainty over more coronavirus aid reaches Montana

Uncertainty over more coronavirus aid reaches Montana
Posted at 5:44 PM, Oct 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-09 10:07:03-04

Negotiations between the White House and Democrats in Congress over a new coronavirus relief package have fluctuated this week, leaving some Montana industries on edge.

President Donald Trump nixed the prospect of a comprehensive coronavirus relief bill earlier this week, and instead pushed for a series of piecemeal measures, including stand-alone aid for the airline industry and $1,200 unemployment checks. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected that idea at a news conference on Thursday, saying House Democrats would only support aid to the airline industry as part of a larger coronavirus relief package.

Patrick Barkey, director of the University of Montana's Bureau of Business & Economic Research, said although each industry is weathering the recession differently, Montana is doing better than many states. Still, it's difficult to get accurate data about how the Montana economy is doing.

"The fear is that we have a strong bounce back with .... a more measure slog going back to where we need to be," he said.

Barkey likened another relief bill to an "insurance policy" for the economy.

As federal relief for the airline industry ran out last week, industry leaders pleaded for more money from Congress.

John Faulkner, Great Falls International Airport director, said the airport is faring relatively well during the pandemic. The airport has had consecutive months of growth since April. Delta and Alaska both have company policies not filling the middle seats of planes, which limits traffic, Faulkner said. Great Falls lost a few flights, but the airport is still working hard to get medical workers to hot spots across the country, and deliver supplies like blood plasma.

Faulkner stressed that it's still safe to travel in and out of Great Falls. But the airlines running through his airport could certainly use the relief money.

"If the airlines don't have a package in place post-holidays, I'm very worried about service reductions across the country," he said. "But we're doing pretty well."

Brett Doney, Great Falls Development Authority director, said although another relief bill could help some local businesses, slowing the spiking coronavirus cases in Cascade County would be a longer-term solution. "Mask up," he said, "and let's keep everybody safe and keep the economy moving along."

Uncertainty over more coronavirus aid reaches Montana