Montana House committee to vote on COVID relief bill Monday

House Appropriations Committee
Posted at 6:54 PM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-28 15:50:46-04

HELENA — On Monday, a Montana legislative committee is expected to finish putting together a massive bill that will authorize the spending of several billion dollars in federal COVID-19 relief and stimulus money.

The House Appropriations Committee will take action Monday on House Bill 632, sponsored by Rep. Frank Garner, a Republican from Kalispell.

So far, there have been no official votes on what will go into the bill. Instead, lawmakers have put the proposed text into a series of amendments they will consider in Monday’s committee meeting.

Each amendment covers a particular section of spending: infrastructure, education, health, broadband and other communications, and economic stabilization. The bill would appropriate millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act to a variety of state agencies and set up advisory committees – including lawmakers from both houses and members appointed by the governor – to give recommendations on how that money should be given out.

One proposed provision the committee will consider would reduce how much of the money is available to a local government if it has adopted “health regulations that are more strict than those imposed by the state.” It would lower certain grant amounts to those governments by 20%. Garner said, if approved, those reductions would apply primarily to matching funds.

Garner said he hopes the committee will be able to finalize the bill language on Monday, then have the bill before the full House by Tuesday or Wednesday. The bill must pass through the House by April 8 in order to keep moving forward.