Friday Flash 5/15/2020

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Reminders/Updates for our Tourism Partners


Guidance for tourism industry partners regarding COVID-19 is available here. This web post will be updated with new information as it becomes available. We urge the traveling public to stay informed, seek information from reputable sources, and take preventative measures, like washing your hands, to protect against COVID-19.

$123 Million Now Available in Emergency Grants

Governor Steve Bullock announced last week that families, small businesses, non-profits, health services centers and individuals across Montana hardest-hit by impacts of COVID-19 will be eligible to apply for grants through nine new programs created in response to the emergency.

The following new programs join the state’s suite of existing support services and direct federal appropriations:

  • Montana Business Stabilization Program
    The Montana Business Stabilization Grant program will provide working capital for small businesses to support payroll, rent, accounts payable, debt service and expenses related to shifts in operations in order to retain existing businesses, retain current employees or retain business viability for future re-employment. Eligible small business must be Montana-based, employ 50 or less, have sustained a loss of revenue since Feb. 15 due to COVID 19, and be in good standing with the Secretary of State or local tribal government. Nonprofit entities are not eligible. Total funding available is $50 million, the maximum award amount per business is $10,000. 

  • Montana Innovation Grant Program
    The Montana Innovation Grant program is intended to help companies scale up, improve capabilities, or drive expanded distribution of products or services developed in response to COVID-19. Projects should demonstrate significant impact in improving public health, safety, and economic impact. Eligible companies include non-profit and for-profit businesses of less than 150 employees that have created an innovative product or service intended to directly confront the COVID-19 emergency. Applicants must have primary operations based in Montana, be in good standing with the Montana Secretary of State and must not be debarred from receiving federal or state funds. Total funding available is $5 million with a maximum award amount of $25,000.

  • Montana Food and Agriculture Adaptability Program
    Grants are available to food and agriculture businesses to help increase community resilience amid the COVID 19 pandemic and other economic disruptions. Grants are intended to create additional economic activity and bolster food security. Examples of eligible projects include, but are not limited to, those focused on accessing new markets, projects which strengthen and expand local food systems, and other business adaptations that decrease food and agricultural waste. The need for such innovations must be driven by the COVID 19 pandemic. Total funding available is $500,000, with a maximum application amount of $10,000.

  • Social Services Nonprofit Grants
    Grants of up to $10,000 per applicant are available for nonprofit organizations impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency to retain existing programs and services, employees, or organizational viability for provision of future services and operations. Eligible applicants are registered, Montana-based social service nonprofits that were operating prior to February 15, 2020. This includes senior services, housing services, transportation, public safety, energy assistance, economic development, job training, recreational services and tourism-related activities. Total funding available is $10 million.

  • Emergency Housing Assistance Program
    The Emergency Housing Assistance program will provide rent, security deposit, mortgage payment, and/or hazard insurance assistance as-needed for Montanans who have lost a job or substantial income loss as a result of COVID-19. Initial payments may include up to three months assistance where the eligible household can demonstrate arrears for April and May, with continual inability to make their June payment. Montana Housing will pay the difference between 30 percent of the household’s current gross monthly income and their eligible housing assistance costs, up to $2,000 a month. Household income limits range from $75,000-$125,000 based on family size. Montanans receiving other forms of housing assistance are not eligible. Total funding available is $50 million.

See a complete list of new grant programs and apply at


Update on Coronavirus’ Impact on American Travel–Week of May 11 from Destination Analysts

Americans’ caution-led feelings and plans for travel for the remainder of the year highlight the challenge travel providers face in devising their near-term strategies. But seeing your travel destination advertising online can inspire joy.

Key Findings to Know this Week

  • American travelers are feeling more comfortable but not necessarily confident, with women and baby boomers more cautious.
  • Many may be waiting to assess the experience of the early (re)adopters to travel
  • Caution-led feelings about travel and trip plans make estimating potential trip volume over the summer more challenging.
  • Travel ads deliver joy, especially in the right (primarily social/digital) setting
  • Travelers are exhibiting strong trust in DMOs for the information they need to travel safely. 
  • New protocols inspire safety, with some anxiety. 

Read more from the Destination Analysts report here.

Save the Dates...

  • Tourism Partner Call—This regularly scheduled call is dedicated to the six tourism Regions, 19 CVBs and specific industry stakeholders. Upcoming meetings are listed below. Please update your calendars. For assistance or information regarding this bi-monthly call, please contact Kev Campbell or call her at 406.841.2887. 
    • May 27
    • July 22
    • September 23
    • November 25
  • May 4, 2020—Region/CVB FY21 Marketing Plans due to MOTBD in WebGrants
  • June 8-9, 2020—TAC Meeting 
  • July 20, 2020—Region/CVB 4th Quarter FY20 Financial Reports Due
  • October 5-6, 2020—TAC Meeting 
  • February 8-9, 2021—TAC Meeting 
  • June 14-15, 2021—TAC Meeting 


Tourism Partner Resources

Please visit the Tourism Partner Resource page at for tourism related COVID-19 resources and information. 

Made in Montana

Choose Local

As we continue to practice social distancing, you can support your local Taste our Place establishments by ordering takeout or delivery. You can also purchase gift cards from your favorite retailer or shop directly from your favorite Made in Montana producer online. Visit to find Made in Montana producers and retailers near you.  

Grown in Montana

Get Out and Grow
The Montana Department of Agriculture is challenging folks across the state to get out and get growing! In conjunction with the Montana Agricultural Business Association, East Helena High School FFA and Montana State University Extension, the Department is launching an online campaign to help people start their own home garden. During the month of May, the “Get out and Grow” campaign will provide many resources and webinars to help folks understand the different types of gardens and plants that can be grown in them. More information and growing resources available here. Grown in Montana has members with bedding plants, agricultural products, seeds, and landscaping materials to help you start a great garden. Search for products from Grown in Montana members through the online directory.

Farmers Market News
Both a beloved celebration of summertime in Montana and a critical conduit to local food, the Livingston Farmers Market will reopen on June 10th. Western Sustainability Exchange (WSE), the market organizer, is implementing COVID-19 Response Guidelines to ensure the market is safe and successful for customers and producers.

Farmers markets are considered “essential businesses” by the Department of Health for good reason. More than 230 farmers, ranchers, and artisans rely on the Livingston Farmers Market to sell local food and products each Wednesday during the summer.

Many don’t realize the major economic impact farmers markets have in Montana,” says Lill Erickson, WSE Executive Director. “The Livingston Farmers Market generates nearly $250,000 in sales for vendors within 17 days (one day a week for 17 weeks) which is then mostly spent locally.” These challenging times have illuminated the weaknesses in our global industrialized and centralized food system. Read the full press release from the Western Sustainability Exchange here


Backgrounds for Video Conferencing

At this time when we are all social distancing and connecting virtually with loved one or colleagues, download one (or all!) of our Montana Zoom backgrounds to virtually create your own #MontanaMoment and let others know that Montana is worth the wait. Download the backgrounds here.

Visit MT Backgrounds

Tribal Tourism

A Message from Commerce and the Indian Tourism Region

While some businesses and outdoor recreation sites reopen, tribal nations across Montana continue to restrict nonessential travel to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In consultation with tribal government representatives and small business owners, the Indian Tourism Region will support tribal directives regarding nonessential travel in Indian Country by suspending all tribal tourism marketing this summer tourism season.

While the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development reminds travelers Montana Is Worth the Wait, statewide tourism marketing campaigns also will exclude imagery of events and locations in Indian Country this summer tourism season. has been updated with information related to the closures of tribal lands.

We’re encouraging our partners to do the same as much as possible.

The Indian Tourism Region represents the diverse Native American peoples and landscapes in Montana to maximize the economic impact of tourism for tribal communities, but we understand the continued safety of native populations is the highest priority.

In the meantime, we’re helping to connect our tribal tourism constituents with the resources to weather these difficult times. Tribal enterprises and tribal member-owned businesses are eligible to apply for the Business Stabilization Grant. We encourage you to share this opportunity with others in your community.

We will continue to monitor the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, and when the time is right, we look forward to helping tribes welcome visitors back into their communities.

Outdoor Recreation

Yellowstone to Begin First Phase of Reopening on May 18

Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Yellowstone National Park will reopen on a limited basis on May 18. The park has been closed to visitors since March 24, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yellowstone has outlined a three-phased plan that initially opens the South and East entrances of Wyoming and limits visitor travel to the lower loop of the park. The lower loop allows visitors to access Lake, Canyon, Norris, Old Faithful, West Thumb, and Grant Village.

Wyoming has lifted out-of-state travel restrictions and has requested the state’s entrances open the week of May 18. Montana and Idaho continue to have out-of-state restrictions in place and the park is working closely with these states and counties to open the remaining three entrances as soon as possible. Read more from the National Park Service here


Complete the 2020 Census Now!

Filling out the Census is quick, easy, and safe. It will take less than 10 minutes to complete and your information and privacy are protected by federal law. Montanans can fill out their Census forms online at or by phone at 1.844.330.2020. The Census is also available via TDD (Telephone Display Device) at 844.467.2020. Learn more at CENSUS.MT.GOV.

Montana in the News
Tourism Partner Shout-Outs, Recognition and News


MontanaMontana's Tourism Industry Braces for Rough Summer
Montana, and Bozeman especially, is a tourist magnet. People flock here for a variety of reasons: the wide-open spaces, our proximity to the first national park, the world-class skiing, the small-town feel. But with COVID-19 shutdowns and quarantines still in effect, businesses that depend on nonresident travelers are feeling the pressure.

June, July, August, September, that’s our bread and butter,” said Colin Davis, owner of Chico Hot Springs. Davis is also on Gov. Steve Bullock’s Coronavirus Relief Fund Task Force, helping provide guidance on how to use the $1.25 billion given to Montana through the federal CARES Act.

According to Stuart Doggett, the executive director of the Montana Lodging and Hospitality Association, Chico is far from the only hotel that has suffered major cutbacks in staff and services. Bookings for hotel rooms dropped dramatically at the end of March and throughout April, with reservations remaining very low in May.

However, Doggett said, some hotels are seeing more reservations toward the end of June and into July, which might be a good sign for the industry — as long as there’s not another shutdown. Read more from the Bozeman Chronicle here

Gallatin CountyGallatin County Officials Preparing For Yellowstone Park's Reopening
As Yellowstone National Park moves closer to releasing its reopening plan, the community next to its busiest entrance is working on boosting its ability to test residents, workers and visitors for the COVID-19 illness.

Health Officer Matt Kelley said Friday that Gallatin County is trying to balance the economic concerns with public health as the U.S. National Park Service decides when and how it will open one of the nation’s most popular destinations.

From a public health perspective, there’s real concern with the idea of bringing in thousands of visitors from all over the nation, that poses significant disease transmission risks. But also I just want to recognize, not opening the park poses risks,” Kelley said.

Like other gateway communities, West Yellowstone’s economy depends on tourism. The town’s population of 1,300 people balloons to 16,000 per night in the summer. Read more or listen to the story at MTPR here

Funding Resources

Rural and Tribal Community Funding

Montana Community Foundation (MCF) and Montana Nonprofit Association (MNA) have partnered to create and administer the Montana COVID–19 Fund. This statewide fund will provide safety-net funding for Montana's rural and tribal communities adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fund will specifically support those communities that do not have established community-specific funds. The fund will grant directly to nonprofit intermediary organizations (community foundations, United Ways, etc.) and rural tribal communities for re-granting in the areas identified by the Montana COVID-19 Fund Steering Committee. For more information, click here

USDA Implements Immediate Measures to Help Rural Residents, Businesses and Communities Affected by COVID-19

USDA Rural Development has taken a number of immediate actions to help rural residents, businesses and communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Rural Development will keep our customers, partners, and stakeholders continuously updated as more actions are taken to better serve rural America.

Effective March 31, 2020 until September 30, 2020, lenders may offer 180-day loan payment deferrals without prior agency approval for Business and Industry Loan Guarantees, Rural Energy for America Program Loan Guarantees, Community Facilities Loan Guarantees, and Water and Waste Disposal Loan Guarantees. Read the full announcement here to learn more about the opportunities USDA Rural Development is implementing to provide immediate relief to our customers, partners, and stakeholders.

USDA’s COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide Lists Federal Programs That Can Help Rural Communities, Organizations and Residents Impacted by COVID-19

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Monday unveiled a one-stop-shop of federal programs that can be used by rural communities, organizations and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide is a first-of-its-kind resource for rural leaders looking for federal funding and partnership opportunities to help address this pandemic. The  USDA has taken many immediate actions to assist farmers, ranchers, producers, rural communities, and rural-based businesses and organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, click here

Other Dates/Events to Note

September 14-16, 2020The 2020 Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit—This summit is an enhanced follow-up to the 2018 inaugural full Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit. 

October 4-6, 2020Northwest USA Spotlight Tourism Conference (Helena)—This tourism conference which is attended by qualified tour operators and suppliers. For more information, click here

October 6-8, 2020—The 2020 NAISMA (North American Invasive Species Management Association) Annual Conference (Virtual)—The 2020 NAISMA Annual Conference will be held on a virtual platform rather than our traditional in-person meeting in order to keep everyone safe and healthy. 

This year’s virtual conference will be presented live during the conference dates. Sessions will also be recorded for post-event attendee access. Attendees will be able to log in to view presentations for up to 1 year after the event. To learn more, click here