Latest Headlines

Wildfire Smoke & Delta Variant May Lead To Further COVID Outbreaks

In areas with low COVID-19 vaccination rates and the rise of the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus, health officials are concerned the result will be COVID outbreaks. Already in Flathead County, health officials are tracking a roughly 50% increase in COVID cases over the past two weeks mostly from unvaccinated people catching the virus at indoor events. According to Kaiser Health News research also suggests that covid cases and deaths increase during periods of intense wildfire smoke.

First Grants For ARPA Water & Sewer Grants Announced

Governor Greg Gianforte announced additional details Wednesday on the first round of American Rescue Plan Act water and sewer grants after receiving over 300 applications. Officials with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation are reviewing applications for eligibility and will rank them before they move to the infrastructure Advisory Committee for consideration. The governor will grant the final awards.

Montana’s Elected Officials Split On BLM Nominee

State representatives and Montanans alike are split on the potential nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning out of Missoula to head the Bureau of Land Management. “The Mountain Pact” network of local elected officials released statements Wednesday supporting her nomination while Senator Steve Daines recently opposed it on the Senate floor. Daines specifically referred to a letter she sent detailing a tree-spiking incident from 1989.

As of Wednesday, 320 applications have been made in the state for water and sewer grants totaling $919.7 million. The Legislature put $906 million toward those types of projects from the roughly $900 million it divvied up in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding. More than $2 billion is coming to the state under the law Congress passed earlier this year. The funding and applications are in addition to projects the Legislature put money toward in various infrastructure bills that also passed earlier this year.

Montana Farmers To Gain Access To Mental Health Services Through New Program

The Montana Department of Agriculture recently secured a $500,000 grant from the USDA’s Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network and plans to prioritize mental health aimed at alleviating stress for Montana farmers and ranchers. The department will provide vouchers for free confidential counseling services both in-person and through tele health to be provided by in-state providers who have ties to Montana communities and appreciation for agriculture. The stress assistance program includes Montana specific initiatives to reduce the negative stigma tied to mental health and connect producers with tangible effective resources.