Montana is allocating $50 million to increase the availability of child care in response to COVID-19, Gov. Steve Bullock said Tuesday.
“As more Montanans return to work and families prepare for the upcoming school year, we must ensure there are options to provide high-quality and flexible care during this emergency,” Bullock said in a statement.
The funding was allocated from the state's $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief money.
The majority of the funding, $30 million, will be distributed in grants to providers who care for school-age children out of school time, officials said. The money can be used to address health and safety needs related to COVID-19, tuition, transportation, training, and other expenses to maintain and expand care for school-age children.
An additional $10 million will be distributed to families with health needs and special needs requiring in-home care.
Another $8 million will be divided among all licensed and registered childcare facilities in the state to maintain and expand childcare slots, cover increased staff costs, cover recruitment, address health and safety, and meet sanitation needs.
The health department's Child Care Resource and Referral Agency will receive $2 million for administration and outreach.
The governor’s announcement came on the same day as the state announced two new COVID-19 related deaths, bringing Montana’s death toll from the respiratory virus to 77.
Big Horn County health officials confirmed the death of a 70-year-old man on Monday. Lewis and Clark County health officials confirmed the death of a county resident on Tuesday, but they released no further information.
Phillips County, a rural county with a population of about 4,200, is seeing an outbreak of the virus, Lee Newspapers reported. The county has confirmed a total of 55 cases as of Tuesday, after reporting its first four cases a week ago.
The state reported 97 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total known cases to 5,104. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.