Gov. Steve Bullock provided details at a May 28 press conference on how the state will support the Yellowstone gateway communities of Cooke City, Gardiner and West Yellowstone to ensure they have the resources needed as Montana park entrances open June 1.
Starting June 1, the Montana Business Adaptation Grant Program will be available to applicants on the state’s COVID-19 relief website. Total funding for this program is $20 million and each business in a destination or non-destination county can apply for up to $5,000. The funds are meant to reimburse those businesses for any expenses associated with necessary measures taken to keep employees and residents safe such as the purchase of PPE.
Gov. Bullock identified a few top destination counties to be Gallatin, Park, Yellowstone, Missoula, Flathead, Dawson, Carbon and Richmond counties, but other counties can also be eligible based on identifiable needs. Gateway communities are able to partner with state health services to educate visiting guests that they need to heed state and local restrictions and engage in the same precautions as we do.
This week, Gov. Bullock sent a letter to Superintendent Cam Sholly requesting the park open the Cooke, Gardiner and West Yellowstone entrances.
“I’ve appreciated the park’s coordination and consultation regarding these efforts,” he said. “I’ve also appreciated the recognition that a simultaneous reopening on May 18 would have been difficult to manage and allowed for additional time for safety measures to be in place.”
He also announced that he is working with Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow on a phased reopening plan for the state’s northernmost national park sometime in the second week of June.
State health officials will also be working with gateway communities to draft protocols for managing sick visitors and working with the state lab to increase testing capacity of their communities so they can test both symptomatic and non-symptomatic residents and visitors. Additionally, all National Guard under Title 32 will obtain a contact tracing certification.
Gov. Bullock said he has received funding requests from gateway communities totaling $4 million. The Montana Business Adaptation Grant Program is aimed at meeting those requests.