American Rescue Plan has helped Montana's economic recovery since 2021 - TAI News
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A ‘Welcome to Montana” sign is seen along Montana State Highway 72 near Chance, Mont., on May 24, 2017. The general election for a race that could determine the Senate majority begins right after Montana voters lock in their nominees in the Tuesday, June 4, 2024, primaries.(AP Photo/Robert Yoon)

On June 25, the office of Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte announced that the state’s unemployment rate in May was 3.1%, below the national rate of 4.1%. In total, the state has added 40,000 jobs since January 2021, according to the governor’s office.

The significantly improved job numbers are part of an economic recovery in Montana that has been boosted by the American Rescue Plan, which President Joe Biden signed in March 2021. That law provided $1.9 trillion in economic stimulus for the states, including $1.7 billion in federal funds awarded to Montana. The plan was designed to help the United States recover from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Montana’s unemployment rate hit 12% in April 2020, the highest since 1976, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As of June, the American Rescue Plan has paid out over $1 billion to state agencies. All of Montana’s 56 counties have received funds from the act, with the largest amounts allocated to Yellowstone, Missoula, and Gallatin counties.

Several key areas of assistance included stabilizing the workforce and training workers; providing housing and rental assistance; funding children’s education; repairing and maintaining water and sewer systems; expanding broadband internet; and funding the health care response to the pandemic.

The state Legislature passed a bill in April 2021 that tasked state agencies with using the newly secured federal funding to assist local communities.

The state Department of Labor & Industry created a return-to-work bonus program that provided companies with funds to attract workers while the state and local economy suffered through a significant worker shortage.

Montana communities also used Rescue Plan funds to alleviate problems that existed before the pandemic.

The Park City School District used funds from the Rescue Plan to construct a new well for schools after the water table was contaminated by a 2020 sewage leak that led to a system shutdown over safety concerns. Until the new well was constructed, students had to rely on bottled water, and visiting athletic teams had to travel with their own water supply.

“The ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] money was a godsend for us; it was just wonderful,” Dan Grabowska, the district’s superintendent, told the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation last year.

Montana Republicans, including Gianforte, opposed the Rescue Plan legislation.

In a March 2021 social media post, Gianforte called the bill a “fiscally irresponsible progressive wish list” and “hyper-partisan.” He was later criticized by the state Democratic Party after he posted photos of himself with an oversized check and took credit for distributing funds from the Rescue Plan to replace water lines in the city of Dillon.

In Congress, Rep. Matt Rosendale voted against the bill, as did Sen. Steve Daines.

Sen. Jon Tester, the only Democratic member of Montana’s congressional delegation, supported the law’s passage.“We passed the American Rescue Plan to help our health care professionals respond to the pandemic and to provide the targeted resources to Montana small businesses, schools, and communities to safely reopen,” Tester said in a March 2022 statement. “A year later, Montana’s unemployment rate is the lowest in history, students are back in classrooms, and our economy is back up and running at full speed. That’s no coincidence, and I’m going to keep working aggressively every day to defend the health and jobs of families across our state.”

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The Montana Independent is a project of American Independent Media, a 501(c)(4) organization whose mission is to use journalism to educate the public, giving them the information they need about local and federal issues.