Commerce Connection

montana department of commerce
Red Lodge

Montana’s Community Snapshot Testing Initiative:
An Invitation to Businesses to Partner in an Early Warning System for Tourism and Gateway Communities

Building from surveillance testing efforts at long term care facilities, with Tribal Nations and with front-line health care workers, the State is pursuing more frequent and widespread COVID-19 testing in order to support businesses and the tourism sector as they reopen in Montana.  The State, in concert with local public health officials, is actively recruiting partnerships with businesses in tourism destination areas to begin voluntary testing of employees who may have frequent interactions with nonresident travelers through the course of their work. The effort, known as Community Snapshot Testing, aims to develop an early warning system for a COVID-19 outbreak through one of the major risk factors facing the state—travel. This increase in testing will not only augment efforts to identify cases early and support COVID-19 response and mitigation measures, it will build a foundation that will better prepare businesses for possible increased exposure that may occur in the future.  

Governor Bullock’s Reopening the Big Sky plan has relied on individuals and businesses to provide leadership in adopting measures to mitigate COVID-19 risks. As a result, Montana enjoys one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 cases in the nation, allowing for the state to proceed with reopening and welcoming back visitors who are critical to our economy. Just as the Governor has asked residents to support local businesses by offering them more than their patronage – he is also asking our state’s visitors to do all they can to respect the decisions Montana businesses make to protect themselves, their employees, and the public.


  • Snapshot Testing Toolkit for Businesses 
    • Montana’s Community Snapshot Testing Initiative Brochure
    • Facility plan for cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting
    • Information about asymptomatic testing 

Request a Testing Event 

Montana Department of Emergency Services
Statewide Emergency Coordination Center

First Event: Red Lodge!

Red Lodge Testing Graphic

Dollar sign graphic

Now Accepting Applications

The Montana Business Adaptation Program provides reimbursement for COVID-19 expenses related to keeping staff and customers safe – from the purchase of personal protective equipment to resources needed for staff to work remotely. Eligible small business must be Montana-based, employ 50 or less, have incurred eligible adaptation expenses since Feb. 15 due to COVID-19, and be in good standing with the Secretary of State or local tribal government. Nonprofit entities are eligible. Eligible expenses include costs related to communication, remote work equipment, cleaning supplies, tools to enhance social distancing and sanitation, travel and hotel costs related to quarantining workers. Total funding available is $20 million, the maximum reimbursement amount per business is $5,000.

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 $75 million, the maximum award amount per business is $10,000. 

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. Deadline to apply is July 1, 2020.

The Social Service Nonprofit Grant program provides 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. Current funding available is $10 million. Deadline to apply is Friday, June 12 at 5 p.m.

Apply Here 


Mortgage, Rental Assistance Available

Montana Housing’s Emergency Housing Assistance program provides 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.

Renters and homeowners can estimate their assistance payment using this calculator. 

Apply here

Transparency Dashboard Now Available 

The state of Montana has launched a dynamic dashboard that shows the Coronavirus Relief Fund grants that have been awarded to businesses and nonprofits. This dashboard will be updated weekly until all grant dollars have been expended. 

Grants map



  • Montana COVID-19 Hotline: 1-888-333-0461 or 
  • Montana Coronavirus task force: COVID19@MT.GOV
  • If you are a business owner and have questions related to the the phased approach to reopening and how the plan applies to you directly, please call 1-800-755-6672.

  • If your question relates to unemployment insurance/benefits, please contact the Department of Labor and Industry at 406-444-2545. If you think you are eligible for unemployment benefits accessible to workers laid off due to COVID-19, you can apply for benefits online at: or contact the Unemployment Insurance Division over the phone at 406-444-2545.

  • CDC:
  • Visit Montana: VISITMT.COM or 1-800-847-4868


Workplace, Employer Resource for COVID-19 Questions

The Montana Department of Labor is posting frequently asked questions and resources for businesses and employees at its new webpage dedicated to providing novel coronavirus-related information. 



Upcoming Application Deadlines 

  • June 12, 2020: Treasure State Endowment Program (TSEP) construction application deadline. 
  • July 31, 2020: Native American Business Advisors (NABA) Grant program is open for application between June 22-July 31. Learn more and apply here.
  • September 15, 2020: CDBG Affordable Housing Development and Rehabilitation application deadline. Learn more and apply here
  • September 15, 2020: CDBG Community and Public Facilities application deadline. Learn more and apply here. 
  • Ongoing: CDBG Housing Stabilization Program applications are accepted on an ongoing basis. Learn more and apply here
  • Ongoing: CDBG Economic Development Program applications are accepted on an ongoing basis. Learn more and apply here.

Farewell to Montana Housing's Bruce Brensdal

Bruce ribbon cutting

Bruce Brensdal, center, cutting the ribbon on new affordable homes.

In the 25 years that Bruce Brensdal has led Montana Housing at the Department of Commerce, he’s overseen more than $4 billion in funding for affordable homes across the state. That’s meant thousands of Montana individuals and families have been able to access affordable and safe homes in communities in every corner of the state.

Brensdal joined Montana Housing as the manager of the state’s multifamily programs in June of 1995, jumping headfirst into the complexities of housing tax credits. He quickly became a leader in this space and by 2000 was promoted to oversee the entire Housing Division at Commerce. Later this month, Brensdal will retire from a distinguished career that has made a difference in so many lives.

“The good lord blessed me with an opportunity to do what I’ve done,” Brensdal said, “and I’ve been blessed with the team I get to work with.”

In the 25 years Brensdal has been part of the affordable housing world, the mission has remained constant, but the creativity required to develop projects has been necessitated by a need far outpaced by available resources.

“The complexity of financing has changed. Deals to develop affordable homes now include bonds, tax credits, private funds, and other public sources,” Brensdal said. “People have gotten more educated – more creative – driven by resource limits.”

What’s remained the same is the foundational importance of homes that are affordable, safe, and in communities of all shapes and sizes. “It’s just as important today for a healthy community and that’s exactly the same as when I started,” he said.

Brensdal says it’s been the mission and diversity of work that have kept him enthusiastic about his job after all these years. Primarily, he says, it’s the people who drive him.

“It’s all about the people. The team I’ve been blessed to work with, and the people we serve.”

Brensdal plans to take a little time off this summer but will still be found driving a combine at his family farm in Plentywood and managing the Twisters, his son’s Special Olympics team.

“I’ve just been so lucky to do what I’ve been able to do,” Brensdal said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better job or better people to work with.”