Surveillance and testing key for
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Personal service businesses such as hair salons were cleared to reopen on April 27. They must follow the rules for retail establishments and ensure that each client is screened for health issues before services are performed. They must also ensure that masks are worn by employees whenever practical and work stations are at least six feet apart.
Restaurants, bars and breweries will be able to resume dine in services on Monday, May 4. They will be required to ensure that there is six feet between each table, limit the seating size to six persons per table and conduct screenings of their employees before each shift.
In addition, standing at bars and drink refills are not allowed. Tables, menus and refillable containers such as growlers must be cleaned before being filled.
In addition to the requirements for businesses reopening, individuals will be encouraged to continue to use social distancing and safety measures such as wearing non-medical masks in public. People in a high-risk demographics are encouraged to continue isolating through phase one of the reopening.
No timeline has been announced for additional loosening of the restrictions by the governor or by the county. Data will be collected to determine the effect of the phase one reopening and when it is deemed safe to move on to phase two. When phase two is enacted, the social distancing measures will be further relaxed.
“We hope that we never have to go back to such extreme social distancing,” said Black. “It takes all of us to care enough to continue social distancing and keep up with the testing.”
By Mati Bishop, The Montanian
Assistance (PUA) portal now open
The CARES Act added new eligibility for Unemployment Insurance, and last Wednesday, the new web portal to accept those claims, called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), was launched. The PUA portal will aid in providing unemployment benefits to those not ordinarily eligible for them including the self-employed and independent contractors impacted by COVID-19.
The PUA web portal can be accessed at mtpua.mt.gov. Independent contractors and self-employed workers who have become eligible for unemployment under the CARES Act and that have already filed a claim at MontanaWorks.gov must now go to the new web portal to file their claims and subsequent payment requests.
There is also a new claim line for PUA-specific questions that can be reached at (406) 444-3382. Questions can be emailed to PUAclaims@mt.gov. PUA filing resources are available at dli.mt.gov/self-employed-contractors.
PUA claims will be backdated to the week of March 15, consistent with directives causing unemployment. It is anticipated that claims will begin being paid within 10 days according to DLI. PUA beneficiaries are also eligible for the additional $600 per week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FUNC) stimulus payment. The $600 benefit is also retroactive for those claims beginning March 29-April 4. The $600 payments began on April 13.
An additional 13 weeks of benefits have been added to the end of regular unemployment benefits as well. Upgrades to the system have not yet been made to allow the additional 13 weeks, but an announcement will be made when it is done.
There were 13,668 initial unemployment claims made for the week ending April 18, and 66,175 continued claims in Montana.
Assistance with unemployment questions is also available at Libby Job Service. According to Johnette Watkins, Manager of Libby Job Service, “Things are changing rapidly and we are working hard to stay up to stay up to speed so we can provide our customers with clear, correct, up to date information and appropriate assistance whether it be navigating the UI system, seeking work, or researching career training possibilities.”
Unemployment continues even with slow reopening of businesses and restarting the economy. Job Service Workforce Consultants are trained to help with UI questions by email or over the phone at 293-6282.
Fighting food pantry shortages
Members of Kootenai Valley Rotary Club donate more than $2500 to Food Pantry on April 21, while ”social distancing”. Photo courtesy of George Gerard.
On April 24, Libby’s Friday night COVID Cruise remained a success as always since the stay at home orders started, but, this time true generosity and support were added. Our amazing community joined forces to donate two trucks loads of much needed food for the local Food Pantry during the event. Photos courtesy of Dhana Nelson.