(KPAX) Governor Steve Bullock announced Thursday additional support for destination communities and small businesses as Montana looks to phase two of reopening June 1.
The state will provide additional testing and contact tracing in areas that have high visitation of tourists, and begin an informational campaign to educate visitors on responsible travel.
“As we enter the next phase of Montana’s reopening, we are asking the same of our visitors as we do from Montanans – heed state and local guidelines, engage in public health precautions, and exercise patience as tourism communities gradually welcome visitors back,” Bullock said. “We must all continue to work together to ensure that we can move forward together, while protecting our residents and businesses alike.”
By using Montana Department of Commerce Data, the state identified destination communities that were typical of visitor travel from June through September, as well as countries that experience high visitation per resident. Those counties are: Cascade, Ravalli, Lewis and Clark, Flathead, Yellowstone, Missoula, Silver Bow, Sanders, Lake, Custer, Gallatin, Dawson, Carbon, Big Horn, Glacier, Madison, Beaverhead, Park, Mineral, and Richland.
The state is working with businesses in highly trafficked areas to develop and implement safety measures for employees and customers.
Bullock also announced snapshot testing for frontline workers at no cost, providing resources to identify and track new cases, and offer financial assistance to small businesses.
“This will be an ongoing process as we slowly and gradually welcome visitors back to our state,” said Bullock. “We’re asking of our businesses and destinations dn gateway communities that they partner with us, and with local public health, in destination safety and how to avoid risks.”
Beginning June 1, businesses can apply two new programs funded through the CARES Act.
The Montana Business Adaptation Program will provide reimbursement for COVID-19 expenses related to keeping staff and businesses safe – from the purchase of personal protective equipment to resources needed for staff to work remotely. Eligible small businesses must be Montana-based, have incurred eligible adaptation expenses since Feb. 15 due to COVID-19, and be in good standing.
The Tourism Education Program will make available $15 million in CARES Act funding to carry out a statewide informational campaign to educate visitors prior to and after arriving in Montana. The Department of Commerce, in coordination with the Department of Public Health and Human Services, is leading this effort. Commerce will be working with local tourism partners across the state to deliver this public health and safety message to visitors.
The Montana entrances to Yellowstone National Park will also reopen on Monday, and the state is working closely with the park for testing and tracing in the area.
The State has also been in regular communication with Glacier National Park, which has not yet officially announced an opening date.