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Bullock announces aid for workers, businesses hurt by coronavirus closures

Posted: 6:42 PM, Mar 17, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-17 20:44:57-04

Gov. Steve Bullock announced Tuesday new economic relief measures for workers and businesses hurt by closures aimed at curbing the coronavirus outbreak.

The new labor rules will allow more workers to qualify for unemployment benefits as a temporary layoff. To qualify, these workers must have been directed not to report to work due to COVID-19 or been forced to quarantine to care for a relative.

Montana has eight cases of COVID-19 on its state health department website Tuesday afternoon. A ninth case was reported in Gallatin County Tuesday evening.

In response, health departments in several counties, including Yellowstone, Carbon and Butte-Silver Bow, have ordered closures of bars, restaurants and casinos to limit large groups and curb spread of the disease.

Bullock's emergency rules allow the Montana Department of Labor and Industries to waive the one-week waiting period for displaced workers before typically receiving benefits to eliminate a long gap without a paycheck.

Individual claims will not be chargeable to a specific employer’s account. The rules also include a provision that could extend the time employers have to file wage reports and pay unemployment insurance contributions if the delay is related to COVID-19.

Claimants are responsible for staying in contact with their employer and return to work when they have the opportunity. Claimants are not eligible for benefits if they could work from home but choose not to.

People who think they are eligible for these benefits can apply for benefits online at: montanaworks.gov or call the Unemployment Insurance Division at (406) 444-2545.

In addition, businesses in Montana are eligible to apply for up to $2 million Small Business Administration loans at a 3.75 percent rate for losses related to coronavirus closures or disruptions. The loans can be up to 30 years.

The Small Business Administration will determine eligibility and loan terms.

“We are monitoring the impacts of coronavirus in real time – both from a public health perspective and an economic health perspective,” Bullock said in a release. “Ensuring that small businesses in Montana have access to capital and resources that will allow them to weather temporary closures and bounce back from critical quarantine efforts is paramount to my administration.”

Watch Bullock's news conference here: