Biden-Harris Administration Announces $24+ Million nvestment for Clean Water Infrastructure upgrades in EPA Region 8 states
Friday March 31, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $,000 from the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act for states, Tribes, and territories through this year’s Clean Water State Revolving Funds (CWSRF) in the states of Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. The funding will help communities upgrade essential wastewater and stormwater systems to protect public health and treasured water bodies across the nation.
“Too many communities across the country are facing challenges with water infrastructure – from climate impacts like drought vulnerability, to a lack of basic wastewater services that everyone deserves,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda is getting unprecedented investments in clean water to communities that need them most. This funding paired with this historic funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will support local economies while advancing projects in communities to help ensure clean, safe water for residents.”
EPA has announced the following: Montana will receive $3,683,000
Friday’s announcement builds on the second wave of $2.4 billion EPA announced for clean water infrastructure upgrades through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in February. Over $3.2 billion will be provided to the CWSRF when combined with Fiscal Year 2023 funding available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This investment reflects the Biden Administration’s commitment to strengthening the nation’s wastewater and stormwater systems, while providing significant resources for mitigating nonpoint source pollution and improving energy and water efficiency. It also addresses key challenges, including climate change and emerging contaminants like per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). In February, EPA also announced additional funding made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act to Region 8 states for clean water infrastructure upgrades.
Submitted by EPA Press Office
FW&P Seeks Public Input on Gray Wolf Conservation & Management Plan
FWP is conducting virtual public scoping meetings on April 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. and on April 11 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is seeking public input as it dives into a rewrite of its 2003 Montana Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. At Gov. Greg Gianforte’s request, the department is replacing the document that’s guided Montana’s management of gray wolves since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed federal protections — at the direction of the U.S. Congress — in 2011.
“The new wolf management plan will include the latest science surrounding wolf management, better transparency on wolf management, and be easier to update in the future,” according to an FWP release. “Public input received during the scoping period will help FWP staff determine public interest, identify potential issues that would require further analysis, and may provide further insights for creating the new wolf plan.”
As part of the process, FWP is conducting virtual public scoping meetings on April 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. and on April 11 from 6 to 8 p.m.
This is the first of what will be several rounds of public comment on the matter. (There will also be comment periods when the draft Environmental Impact Statement and draft plan are released.) For this round, comments are due by April 22. They can be emailed to email@example.com.
The plan rewrite comes during a turbulent period for wolf management, with proposals seeking to reduce wolf populations garnering considerable public comment during the 2021 legislative session and in Fish and Wildlife Commission meetings. The state’s approach to wolf management also inspired an October lawsuit that’s currently before a state district court judge in Helena. The USFWS is about six months overdue to release a decision that will give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on restoring federal protections for Northern Rockies wolves due to concerns about “human-caused mortality.”
By Amanda Eggert, Montanafreepress.org
Medicaid Eligibility Redeterminations & Renewals to Resume in April Medicaid/HMK
The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) will begin conducting Medicaid and Healthy Montana Kids (HMK) eligibility redeterminations on April 1 for the first time in three years.
Federal requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic led to the suspension of annual redeterminations, in order to keep every individual enrolled in Medicaid covered throughout the pandemic. However, last December’s federal omnibus spending bill directed states to resume evaluating eligibility of Medicaid enrollees on April 1.
Beginning in April and over the course of 2023, DPHHS will evaluate current Medicaid and HMK members’ eligibility for continued coverage, and renew or terminate coverage as appropriate.
DPHHS must conduct eligibility redeterminations on all individuals currently enrolled in Medicaid or HMK. These will be conducted over ten months, balancing workload with the need to conduct an expedient and quality process overall.
DPHHS encourages Montanans currently receiving Medicaid or HMK coverage to take the following steps to prepare:
Update contact information with DPHHS as soon as possible to receive important notices about Medicaid/HMK. (See below for instructions.)
Check their mail. Starting in April and throughout 2023, DPHHS will mail members a letter about their Medicaid/HMK coverage. This notification may require individuals to take action in order to maintain coverage.
Complete and return any paperwork that is received.
By April 10, individuals receiving Medicaid/HMK who have an apply.mt.gov account will be able to log in and see the month their redetermination will occur in the Check My Benefits area. Members should expect to start seeing paperwork arrive the month before the redetermination month.
As DPHHS begins processing redeterminations, some individuals’ coverage will be able to be renewed through an automated process. Those individuals will receive a letter from DPHHS telling them their Medicaid/HMK will continue.
Individuals whose coverage cannot be redetermined by the automated process will receive a packet in the mail. The best way for these individuals to complete their paperwork is online at apply.mt.gov or by mailing back the completed packet.
Households will have a minimum of 30 days to return their packet once it is received. DPHHS will send a reminder notice and text message to encourage members to complete the process.
State officials say that it’s essential individuals respond and complete their redetermination. If a member does not complete their redetermination by the stated deadline, their Medicaid/HMK coverage will end.
All Montanans receiving Medicaid/HMK should ensure DPHHS has their current mailing address to make sure this mail reaches them.
Updates can be made the following ways:
Complete the new change of address form online at the top of apply.mt.gov. Individuals can also create an online account at apply.mt.gov. Through an online account, members can update their contact information, complete their paperwork when it’s time, and receive correspondence about their coverage.
Call the Public Assistance Helpline at 1-888-706-1535 and press 1
Mail a letter to: DPHHS, PO Box 202925, Helena, MT 59620-2925
Fax a letter to 1-877-418-4533
Go to a local Office of Public Assistance
Individuals who DPHHS identifies as no longer eligible for coverage will receive a notice telling them their coverage will end, along with information on how to pursue coverage through HealthCare.gov, the federal Health Insurance Marketplace.
To help these Montanans transition to other health insurance, DPHHS is also partnering with Cover Montana. Cover Montana is a project of the Montana Primary Care Association and connects Montanans to health insurance coverage. Cover Montana provides free, confidential enrollment help with Medicaid, HMK, and HealthCare.gov.
“Cover Montana is ready to help Montanans who are losing Medicaid coverage and need new health insurance,” said Olivia Riutta, Director of Cover Montana. “Many folks will only have a few days to sign up for new health insurance to avoid a gap in coverage, so make sure you quicky open notices from the DPHHS Office of Public Assistance. Then reach out to Cover Montana right away so we can help you sign up for new insurance through HealthCare.gov. It’s more affordable than ever.”
Montanans covered by Medicaid who need help navigating this process or finding other health insurance are encouraged to call Cover Montana’s toll-free help line at (844) 682-6837 or find local in-person enrollment help at https://covermt.org/
More information about these coming changes is available at https://dphhs.mt.gov/hcsd/medicaidupdates.