With limited information, Montana lawmakers are beginning to sort out how to spend nearly $1 billion in state funds from the federal coronavirus relief package signed into law last week.
Of Montana’s slice from the American Rescue Plan Act, the Legislature needs to appropriate an estimated $910 million in discretionary state money.
State relief spending must generally be tied to coronavirus-related impacts, though lawmakers have more latitude with water, sewer and broadband infrastructure dollars.
Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte’s budget director, Kurt Alme, told lawmakers to remain flexible given the lack of information from the federal government thus far about how money can be spent.
“It would seem to me that in the months to come we’re going to get guidance that may contradict or may run afoul of an appropriation that’s done here," Alme said.
Budget subcommittees are expected to present spending recommendations Friday, after which they’ll be folded into policy to eventually be considered by the full Legislature.
In total Montana is receiving an estimated $2.7 billion from the new relief bill, though much of that share will go directly to local governments and citizens, including for programs like enhanced unemployment insurance.
Kevin Trevellyan is Yellowstone Public Radio's Report for America statehouse reporter.