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Commissions Created To Advise How Federal Pandemic Relief Funds Are Spent

Four newly established advisory commissions will make recommendations to Montana’s governor on how to spend more than $1.5 billion of federal pandemic relief funds.

The governor’s office Wednesday announced the commissions, made up of state lawmakers and appointees from the executive branch. They will focus on proposals to fund infrastructure, communications, economic stabilization and health projects and programs.

State lawmakers earlier this year created the commissions along with a framework for allocating the federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. The commissions will review grant applications and proposals within that framework and make recommendations to Governor Greg Gianforte on which should be funded.

The Health Advisory Committee will meet virtually tomorrow Thursday morning to consider approving an increased fruits and vegetables benefit for women, infants and children in the WIC Program.

The commissions are comprised of three state senators, three to four state representatives and three appointees from the executive branch, as outlined in the allocation framework.

An email from the governor’s office outlined each commission’s areas of oversight and members:

Infrastructure Advisory Commission

The Infrastructure Advisory Commission will review applications for funding for state capital projects and state and local government water and sewer infrastructure projects and provide recommendations to the executive on which projects should be funded. Commission members include:

Sen. Doug Kary (R-Billings)

Sen. Mike Cuffe (R-Eureka)

Sen. Ellie Boldman (D-Missoula)

Rep. Dan Bartel (R-Lewistown)

Rep. Sue Vinton (R-Billings)

Rep. Jim Keane (D-Butte)

Amanda Kaster, Director of the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation

Chris Dorrington, Director of the Department of Environmental Quality

Rachel Meredith, Counsel to Governor Gianforte

Communications Advisory Commission

The Communications Advisory Commission will review recommendations for projects related to broadband infrastructure. Commission members include:

Sen. Dan Salomon (R-Ronan)

Sen. Jason Ellsworth (R-Hamilton)

Sen. Janet Ellis (D-Helena)

Rep. Mike Hopkins (R-Missoula)

Rep. Ed Buttrey (R-Great Falls)

Rep. Katie Sullivan (D-Missoula)

Misty Ann Giles, Director of the Department of Administration

Scott Osterman, Director of the Department of Commerce

Scott Sales, Director of the Montana Lottery and former state legislative leader

Economic Transformation and Stabilization, and Workforce Development Advisory Commission

The Economic Transformation and Stabilization, and Workforce Development Advisory Commission will review proposals for economic transformation and stabilization, and workforce development programs from the departments of commerce, agriculture, and labor and industry. As currently outlined by HB 632, appropriations include $50 million for mortgage assistance, $152 million in emergency rental assistance, and nearly $11.5 million for the HOME program. Commission members include:

Sen. Mark Blasdel (R-Kalispell)

Sen. Ryan Osmundson (R-Buffalo)

Sen. Ryan Lynch (D-Butte)

Rep. Wylie Galt (R-Martinsdale)

Rep. Llew Jones (R-Conrad)

Rep. Kim Abbott (D-Helena)

Laurie Esau, Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry

Chris Heggem, Chief of Staff to Governor Gianforte

Kurt Alme, Director of the Office of Budget and Program Planning

Health Advisory Commission

The Health Advisory Commission will recommend how funds allocated to the Department of Public Health and Human Services are to be used. As currently outlined by HB 632, appropriations include $11 million for SNAP, $112.5 million for child care block grants, and $22.5 million for vaccine distribution and supply. Commission members include:

Sen. Bob Keenan (R-Bigfork)

Sen. Carl Glimm (R-Kila)

Sen. Mary McNally (D-Billings)

Rep. Matt Regier (R-Kalispell)

Rep. Terry Moore (R-Billings)

Rep. Frank Garner (R-Kalispell)

Rep. Mary Caferro (D-Helena)

Adam Meier, Director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services

Anita Milanovich, General Counsel to Governor Gianforte

Charlie Brereton, Health Care Policy Advisor to Governor Gianforte

Copyright 2021 Yellowstone Public Radio

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