January 18, 2023
Libby Logger Students Win Multiple Awards
Photo Left: Logger Speech and Debate had a great meet in Whitefish this past weekend. In an invitational meet with 10 schools attending every member of the Logger team placed in the top 10 in at least one event! Individual placings included: Varsity Lincoln Douglas Debate: Addison Skranak 8th; Informative Speaking: Cash Vaughn 6th, Jenna Hammond 4th; Impromptu Speaking Cadence Newman 2nd; Duo Interpretation of Literature: Juliana Schumate and Nevaeh Neff 8th, Jenna Hammond and Cash Vaughn 5th; Dramatic Interpretation of Literature: Cadence Newman 2nd. Photo right: The Libby Loggers won the Battle of the Kootenai against Eureka, early last week. The games consist of girls and boys basket ball and wrestling. Boys basketball was Libby 43 and Eureka 29. Girls basketball was Libby 33 and Eureka 36, and wrestling was Libby 49 and Eureka 21. Photo courtesy Libby High School
Voice Your Opinions About Healthcare in Lincoln County Health Survey
Submitted by Paula Collins
Community members in Lincoln County and surrounding areas may soon be receiving a survey in their mailbox. This survey will be sent to a random sample of homes and will help Cabinet Peaks Medical Center, Cabinet Peaks Clinic, Northwest Community Health Center, and Lincoln County Health Department identify health services and resources needed in the community. This information will be used for strategic planning, grant applications, new programs, and by community groups interested in addressing health issues.
This project, administered by the Montana Office of Rural Health and funded in part through the Montana Health Research and Education Foundation (MHREF) Flex Grant and the State of Montana’s Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health and Safety Division in partnership with the Montana Healthcare Foundation, will assist the hospital in an analysis of local community needs, use of local healthcare services and overall community health. This process was developed to maintain quality healthcare to serve the continuing and future needs of the community.
The community health assessment process promotes healthcare as a local affair. Citizens of rural counties can take responsibility for the health of their community by completing the survey they receive in their mailbox. Most communities face a large number of complex issues in addressing the health and wellness of their citizens, but fortunately, Lincoln County can engage in effective problem-solving, which is the most important factor in the survival of rural health services.
An accompanying goal of this process is to keep healthcare dollars within the local community. While the vast majority of healthcare can be provided locally, rural citizens often drive to large medical centers for care, spending money on healthcare and non-health care purchases that could be spent locally. It is estimated that within a typical rural community, millions of dollars of revenue is lost in this way. This revenue could be retained in the local community with stronger community- healthcare provider linkages.
Maria Clemons, Executive Director at Northwest Community Health Center stated, “The information provided by community members through the Community Health Needs Assessment process is vitally important to our organizations in developing future programs and services. We are excited to learn more about the healthcare needs of our families, friends and neighbors.”
“We are pleased to be able to bring some of the best community health resources to Lincoln County. The goal of this initiative is to assist forward-thinking rural hospitals and communities in aligning their resources, to address their present and future needs in the best way possible,” said Natalie Claiborne, Assistant Director, Montana Office of Rural Health.
For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Montana Emergency Rental Assistance Program Winding
Down in Anticipation of Diminished Federal Funding
Courtesy of Montana Department of Commerce
The Montana Department of Commerce announced today that the Montana Emergency Rental Assistance (MERA) program will stop accepting new applications on January 20, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. Agency officials said this decision was made in anticipation of limited federal funding.
“The MERA program has been instrumental for ensuring people in our state have housing security. Over the past two years, we have provided more than 12,000 Montana households with rent and utility assistance,” said Montana Department of Commerce Director Scott Osterman. “In anticipation of reaching the limits of federal funding for the program, we project that MERA assistance funding will be fully expended this spring. We will implement a freeze in new applications beginning January 20, 2023, in order to continue serving Montanans currently in the program or those who have already applied.”
The policy changes are as follows:
No new applications will be accepted after 11:59 p.m. on January 20, 2023; any applications received after January 13, 2023 will be processed subject to available funds. This change only impacts households which have never received MERA funding.
MERA will continue to support households already staying in hotels or motels; however, the length of stay is capped at three months and the funding is limited to $1,200 per month for stays approved on or after January 14, 2023.
Applications that have already been submitted will be reviewed to determine household eligibility for the program; eligible individuals who are currently enrolled in the program will continue to be funded. The pause only affects individuals who have not applied for MERA prior to 11:59 p.m. on January 20.
“Pausing new applications now will allow us to take a proactive approach so we can evaluate the best use of the remaining funds, make sure individuals currently accessing the funds have time to prepare for the inevitable end of the program, and possibly extend the program for Montanans who are most in need of the assistance,” said Commerce’s ARPA Housing Program Executive, Melissa Higgins.
The MERA program has provided thousands of eligible Montanans with financial support to help pay future and past due rent, and future utilities, including gas, electric, and internet. Since the beginning of the MERA1 and MERA2 programs, more than 12,000 Montana households received assistance with more than $109 million of total funding awarded.
The MERA program is funded through the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program via the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (MERA1) and was expanded by the American Rescue Plan Act later that year (MERA2). Funding for MERA1 expired on September 30, 2022. Funding for MERA2 does not expire until 2025; however, due to high demand, more than half of the country’s emergency rental programs are on hold, and nearly one-quarter of them are already depleted.
The federal allocation for MERA2 was divided into three segments: The first segment Montana received was $60.8 million. In December 2022, the program met the requirements to request a second segment of more than $34.4 million, for a total to date of $95.2 million. Recently, the U.S. Department of Treasury informed the MERA program that if the additional requirements are met, the segment three allocation will be no more than $10.2 million available for Montana.
For more information, visit HOUSING.MT.GOV.
Biennial Work Begins
By Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Montana Free Press
The 68th Montana Legislature has convened, its first day marking a relative calm before what could be a watershed session steered by the first Republican bicameral supermajority since the state adopted its current Constitution in 1972.
Lawmakers with first-day-of-school jitters in both the House of Representatives and Senate began their days shortly after noon, taking their oaths of office as friends, family, supporters, a smattering of lobbyists and others looked on from the chamber galleries. The spirit, at least at first, was congenial, as returning legislators shook hands as old friends regardless of party. As newly elected Senate Minority Leader Pat Flowers, D-Bozeman, noted Monday, it all gets harder from here.
“We’re about to begin on a great adventure for the next four months,” Flowers told fellow Democrats in a Monday press conference. “I invite you all to look around for a second, look at your neighbors and realize this is as healthy and happy as you’ll be for the next four months. It’s all downhill from here.”
In the House, legislators selected an unopposed Rep. Matt Regier, R-Kalispell, as Speaker, avoiding intra-party conflict and affirming decisions the caucus made in pre-session meetings late last year. The same was true in the Senate, where lawmakers confirmed Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, as president.
In speeches to the chambers, Republican leadership previewed policy ambitions and trumpeted their newly attained supermajorities. Collectively, the party holds 102 seats across the House and Senate.
“We must remain steadfast in working together to achieve the conservative mandate that our voters and Montanans sent us here to accomplish,” House Majority Leader Sue Vinton, R-Billings, told other Republicans.
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Governor Gianforte Calls for Civics, Personal
Finance Courses in Schools
:Governor urges Board of Public Education to add courses as requirement for graduation
Governor Greg Gianforte today urged the Montana Board of Public Education (BPE) to add civics and personal finance courses as requirements for high school graduation.
“There is a clear, growing need for civics and personal finance education in our high schools,” Gov. Gianforte wrote to BPE members. “When students graduate, they should be well prepared and well equipped for their lives and for the opportunities that await them.”
The governor encouraged BPE to adopt the recommendations from the Office of Public Instruction to add one half-unit of civics or government and one half-unit of economics or financial literacy as a requirement for high school graduation.
“Our Montana students should graduate with a demonstrated understanding of the U.S. system of government and the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen in our constitutional republic,” Gov. Gianforte continued. “They should also graduate with a demonstrated knowledge of personal finance, understanding budgeting, paying bills, paying taxes, saving, and navigating debt.”
Montana currently ranks 29th among all states for guaranteeing students access to personal finance courses.
The governor concluded, “As you consider many changes to school accreditation rules to improve student outcomes and eliminate red tape, adding civics and personal finance course requirements will help ensure our students receive the best education possible to prepare them for their future.”
Submitted by Brooke Stroyke