Montana Public Radio


Montana lawmakers have advanced a first draft spending plan for more than $2 billion coming to the state from the latest federal stimulus package. Republicans are seeking to limit funding to cities and counties with some public health restrictions, like mask mandates, in place.

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Community health centers in Montana will receive over $24 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to use for COVID-19 vaccinations, testing and treatment.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that 14 community health centers in Montana will use the funds to support and expand efforts to limit COVID-19’s impact.

Pat Zellar with Riverstone Health in Billings says the community health centers in the area are still figuring out how they will use the money.

Montana lawmakers have adopted a more optimistic estimate of how much money the state will bring in over the next two years. The change will help guide ongoing work to craft a balanced state budget.

Capitol Talk: Beasts, Budgets And Voting Rights

Mar 26, 2021

Gov. Greg Gianforte makes headlines after trapping a Yellowstone wolf — while bills targeting wolves head toward passage. Republican lawmakers want to eliminate same-day voter registration. And the so-called "beast bill" — directing how billions in federal COVID relief money will be spent — crawls forward.

Listen now on Capitol Talk with Sally Mauk, Holly Michels and Rob Saldin.

Ten more cases linked to variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been identified in Montana since last week, including two cases in Missoula County. Health officials there say they are more concerned about a renewed rise in cases.

Dr. Gregory Normandin, associate chief of staff for Montana Veterans Affairs, says responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has been an experience above and beyond his 15 years with the VA.

Normandin's dad, a World War II vet, played in shaping his desire to serve others and what gives him hope as the pandemic moves into year two.

Following Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte’s announcement that all Montanans aged 16 and up will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting April 1, larger counties are outlining varying timelines and approaches for how they’ll meet that goal.

Most Montana counties are currently vaccinating people who fall into the state’s Phase 1B+, which includes those who are 60 years and up and people with certain medical conditions.

Yellowstone County is opening COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adults age 16 and older this week. It’s one of the first large counties in Montana to take this step.

Riverstone Health, the county’s health department, announced Tuesday morning that about 1,000 appointments to receive the free vaccine were unclaimed by residents in priority groups, leading the county to expand eligibility.

“The most important thing is to get the vaccine into arms. So we worked with our state partners to get the OK and open it up," said Health Officer John Felton.

At a House Judiciary Committee meeting at the Montana Capitol January 5, 2021 lawmakers wearing masks and those with bare faces sat next to each other. Some committee chairs are requiring participants to adhere to public health guidance, others aren't.
Shaylee Ragar / Montana Public Radio

A sixth Montana lawmaker has tested positive for COVID-19.

According to a news release from GOP leadership, the lawmaker did not authorize his or her name to be released, as has happened with other lawmakers who have contracted the virus. The GOP press release said the unnamed lawmaker is in quarantine away from the Capitol.