Destination communities will be ready for visitors, says Bullock

At a press conference May 28, Governor Steve Bullock and the state of Montana prioritized preparing highly transited ‘destination communities’ for higher amounts of tourists as the state loosened interstate travel restrictions as a part of its Phase Two reopening plan. This includes adding additional resources for community testing and contact tracing in high-visitation communities, as well as an informational campaign to educate visitors on responsible travel and a grant program for small businesses across the state to implement safety measures.

Starting June 1, nonresidents of the state do not have to self-quarantine for 14 days when entering the state.

“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,” Governor Bullock said. “We must all continue to work together to ensure that we can move forward together while protecting our residents and businesses alike.”

In addition to loosening restrictions on visitors, Bullock also looks to reopen Montana’s national parks. He sent a letter to Yellowstone National Park’s Superintendent Cam Sholly requesting that the park reopen access to and from the park to visitors at the Cooke City, Gardiner and West Yellowstone gates effective June 1.

“I appreciate the coordination that Yellowstone National Park has provided with state and local officials as we’ve developed a reopening approach that more fully integrates the needs of Montana’s gateway communities,” said Bullock. “We will continue to ensure that we remain in close coordination with the park and the surrounding communities to create an effective early warning system that can serve to protect workers and visitors alike, inside and outside the park.”

Glacier National Park did not have a definite start date for opening. Bullock said the state is shooting for the west entrance to open the second week of June.

Montana’s development plan for the highly trafficked zones of the state, which will be providing support to destination communities, were highlighted in the following ways:

• Implementing community snapshot testing for frontline workers at no cost with need determined by local jurisdictions.

• Providing resources to local providers for community testing to develop an early warning system for identifying new cases.

• Assistance with contact tracing in the event of a positive test. Montana National Guard members currently on Title 32 orders have been directed to take online contact tracing course and obtain a certificate, adding an additional 150 contact tracers if needed.

• Offering financial assistance for safety measures to small businesses to better protect their customers and workers.

• Public education outreach campaign, including resources for communities, tourism promotion organizations, employers and employees.

Destination counties include 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. They were chosen based on a ratio of how many travelers visit the state per resident.

With Phase Two there will also be two new financial assistance programs to help fund the new goals listed above. They join the other nine grant programs created through the CARES act announced earlier this month.

First, the Montana Business Adaptation Program will provide reimbursement for COVID-19 expenses related to keeping staff and businesses safe. Eligible small businesses must be Montana-based, have incurred eligible adaptation expenses since Feb. 15 due to COVID-19 and be in good standing with the state.

Total funding available is $20 million, the maximum reimbursement amount per business is $5,000.

The second, 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 will be working with local tourism partners across the state to deliver this public health and safety message to visitors.

A comprehensive information resource and application portal is available at COVIDRELIEF.MT.GOV. The application for the Business Adaptation Program will be available on Monday, June 1.


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