Montana Public Radio


Football players in a huddle.

Montana high schools will play football in the fall despite state health officials' concerns.

Health officials from Montana’s seven biggest counties had previously asked Montana High School Association officials to consider moving football to the spring. Four superintendents also asked the association to consider postponing football until the spring.

The Northwest Montana State Fair and Rodeo wrapped up on Sunday. Over the weekend images of the event published by the Daily Interlake newspaper showing a crowd at the rodeo circulated on social media and raised concern about possible spread of COVID-19. Event organizers say around 40,000 people attended the fair over its five day run. MTPR’s Aaron Bolton spoke with Flathead County Health Officer Tamilee Robinson via video chat to get her thoughts on how the fair went.

More than 8,200 small Montana businesses have received state grants to help get through the coronavirus pandemic, according to numbers released by the Department of Commerce Aug. 21.

Joe Petersen, the owner of Three Forks Saddlery, says sales were up this summer as people looked to horseback riding as a way to get out of their homes. But he’s been worried about what could happen this winter.

The business typically takes in tens of thousands of dollars in December at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

Empty school classroom

It’s been about six months since most Montana students sat inside a classroom and as school doors reopen, teachers are eager to see if students fell behind while learning remotely. Montana Public Radio’s Aaron Bolton reports on districts’ plan to tackle the so-called “COVID slide.”

After years of declining, Montana’s food insecurity rate is up more than 50 percent. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many as 165,000 people in the state could go hungry this year. That’s an estimated 56,000 more people than before the crisis. Now, a rancher from Park County is rallying support to do something about it.

Matt Pierson recently delivered a banana box filled with 100 pounds of frozen hamburger to a walk in freezer in Billings.

The meat will be given out at no cost to veterans and their families.

Closeup of a mask on a person's face.

Montana’s mask mandate is now just over a month old. While public health experts and studies say masks are key to slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, some people are pushing-back against the rule. Candidates for governor and attorney general also have opposing views on the role of state government during the pandemic.

Emergency funds and protections against electricity shut offs are set to expire for many Montanans at the end of the month. The number of people facing shut offs may be small now but demand for aid is growing with winter heating bills on the horizon.

Amy Ensign says she’s been fielding a lot of calls recently.

“Hi, so you were calling about some energy assistance," Ensign says.

Young children eating in a school cafeteria.

Montana has distributed more than $20 million in federal aid to keep school-aged children fed during pandemic. State health and education officials are urging more families to apply for nutrition assistance.

Montana families who lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to school closures during the 2019-2020 school year have about a month left to apply for money to help repay the costs of meals.

Canada’s border crossing chief says non-essential travel that crosses the U.S. border will continue to be restricted but the U.S. has not yet announced if it will extend the restrictions as well.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair on Aug. 14 issued a statement that the Canada-U.S. border will remain closed to non-essential travel for at least another month amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Sign reading 'temporarily closed dut to coronavirus pandemic'.

The state of Montana has applied for federal grant money to add $400 per week to individual unemployment benefits.

President Donald Trump ordered the boost in payments a week ago. People had been receiving an added $600 per week in unemployment payments under the CARES Act, but that expired at the end of July.