Friday Flash 5/29/2020

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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.

Tourism Partner Resources

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

Responsible Tourism Messaging

As Governor Steve Bullock announced last week, the Department of Commerce is partnering with the Department of Public Health and Human Services to make sure a responsible tourism message is delivered to out-of-state visitors before they arrive, and once they’re here.

This will be a multi-phased campaign that starts with a simple public-health-focused message. We’re asking partners across Montana to help spread this message over the next two weeks as the state slowly starts to reopen its doors to visitors.

Here’s what you’ll see from Visit Montana on our social media channels during the next two weeks:

  1. Know before you go: Know the local public health guidelines before arriving at your destination
  2. Stay home if you’re sick: Montana has the lowest rate of infection in the nation, we want to keep it that way
  3. Understand some services and destinations may be limited

In the coming days we will coordinate an integrated campaign for visitors with Convention and Visitor Bureaus (CVBs) and Montana’s nonprofit Tourism Regions.

Governor Bullock Announces Support for Local Meat Processors, Small Businesses and Local Governments Across Montana

CARES Act funding will be used to put more Montana meat on shelves and reimburse local governments for COVID-19 related expenses.

Governor Steve Bullock announced Thursday, funding through the federal CARES Act will be used to boost in-state processing and storage capacity for local meat processors, to provide additional financial assistance for small businesses, and to reimburse local governments for COVID-19 related expenses.

The Montana Meat Processing Infrastructure Grant is available to aid small and medium-sized meat processors responding to COVID-19 supply chain disruptions by supporting local meat processing infrastructure and capacity in Montana.

These grants will boost processing and storage capacity. They’ll help Montana businesses put more Montana meat onto more shelves. Plus, an increase in in-state processing means more direct sales, and better, value-added markets for producers,” Governor Bullock said. “These investments will bolster Montana’s food security, making us stronger in response to the pandemic, as well as long into the future.”

Due to interruptions in national supply chains, meat processing capacity throughout the US has been significantly impacted. Supporting in-state meat processing infrastructure and capacity will provide alternative market channels for Montana’s cattle, hog and poultry producers. Examples of eligible expenses include equipment and infrastructure that increases processing and/or storage capacity, costs associated with becoming state or federally inspected, and other business adaptation and diversification activities. Total funding available through the program is $2,000,000, with a maximum award of $150,000. Applications are being accepted now at COVIDRELIEF.MT.GOV. The deadline to apply is July 2, 2020 at 5:00 p.m.

Governor Bullock also announced an additional $25 million will be added to the Business Stabilization Program to aid small businesses in recovering from the economic impacts of COVID-19. The program, which is operated by the Department of Commerce, was initially allocated $50 million. The program has received more than 8,000 applications, with funding requests totaling more than $60 million. Learn more and apply at COVIDRELIEF.MT.GOV.

Additionally, Governor Bullock is making available reimbursements to local governments for COVID-19-related expenses. Localities can submit requests to the Department of Administration for reimbursement for items like medical expenses, public health expenses, or employees’ regular and overtime hours substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to COVID-19.

Along with Montanans, our local governments have gone to great lengths throughout our response to COVID-19 to keep their local communities safe – and that has come with an extra cost,” Governor Bullock said. “I’m pleased we have been able to build on long-established working relationships with the Montana Association of Counties and the Montana League of Cities and Towns, and on our existing partnerships with county commissioners, mayors and other local officials across Montana to respond with a united front in the face of the pandemic.”

From the creation of the Task Force which prioritized private sector recovery and economic stability; through the framework for local government reimbursement for public safety and public health stability; we thank the Governor and his administration for allowing input from Montana Counties,” said Eric Bryson, Executive Director, Montana Association of Counties.

We are thankful for the ongoing partnership with the Governor and his team at the State,” said the President of the Montana League of Cities and Towns and Roundup Mayor Sandra Jones. “We have worked side by side during this pandemic including developing the local government reimbursement program. These funds are critical to Montana’s 127 cities and towns and the work we do to serve Montanans every day.”

Localities will submit requests for reimbursements by June 12, July 17, September 4, and/or December 1, 2020, and will be reimbursed within 30 days of these deadlines. Any entity will receive a maximum of four reimbursement payments.

Local governments may also be eligible for reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance grant program for costs related to emergency protective measures as a result of COVID-19, such as emergency operations center activities, training, facility disinfection, technical assistance and more.

Local governments can apply at COVIDRELIEF.MT.GOV or email for questions.

The funding announcement today through the CARES Act is part of the $1.25 billion provided to Montana from the federal government. Today’s announcement adds to the $123 million in funding announced by Governor Bullock in May. A comprehensive information resource and application portal is available at COVIDRELIEF.MT.GOV.

New to the website is a transparency dashboard at COMMERCE.MT.GOV/Montana-Coronavirus-Relief/Awarded-Grants.

Update on Coronavirus’ Impact on American Travel—Week of June 1 from Destination Analysts

Americans continue to exhibit signs of feeling safer and have the travel plans to prove it.

Key Findings to Know this Week

  • Americans continue to exhibit greater feelings of safety, including towards travel.
  • One in five are already traveling or ready to travel with no hesitations. These Americans have less concerns surrounding the virus, and are more likely to prioritize having new experiences in their lives.
  • Openness to travel inspiration and excitement to take a getaway in the next month jumped up this week.
  • The proportion of American travelers who have at least tentative trip plans in 2020 grew to nearly 7-in-10 and Americans’ next air and road trips will be sooner than they reported last week.
  • Travel is commonly seen as integral to health and wellness.
  • Road trips, staying at a beach resort, and visiting national and other parks are among the highest rated relaxing travel experiences.
  • American travelers are also getting more comfortable with tourists in their own communities.

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.
    • July 22
    • September 23
    • November 25
  • June 8, 2020—TAC Meeting via GoToWebinar—For meeting agenda and other information, visit MARKETMT.COM/TourismAdvisoryCouncil
  • 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 


2020 Montana Tourism Awards 

The annual Montana Tourism Awards recognize the outstanding accomplishments of the people, businesses, organizations and communities that strengthen Montana's tourism and recreation industries and thereby contribute to maximizing its economic impact for Montana residents.

In past years, the winners have been revealed at the live awards ceremony held in conjunction with the annual Montana Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Recreation. Unable to do so in 2020, award-winners were notified and a public announcement was made on May 19.

Therefore, additional information about each recipient and the finalists in each category will be highlighted in the Friday Flash over the next few weeks. 

Todd Hunkler

2020 Outstanding Tourism Volunteer— Todd Hunkler of Butte, Montana Folk Festival

This award acknowledges and celebrates significant commitment demonstrated by an individual who exemplifies the positive impact volunteers have on Montana's tourism and recreation industries and who goes above and beyond to ensure visitors' experiences are positive and worth repeating. It may also be awarded to a group. Judges consider the following criteria and measurements:

  • Contributions to a specific tourism-related event, attraction, organization or project and results that include increased participation, extended visitors' stays, leveraging of financial and in-kind contributions or a combination of any of these things
  • Contributions made by the volunteer without which would have left a goal unmet, a gap in funding, staffing or resources, or reduced the offering; and that the volunteer is not regularly paid for the specific body of work they are being nominated for.

From humble beginnings as part of the Bucket Brigade to collect contributions on the festival grounds during the event, Todd Hunkler has recruited, scheduled, shaped and refined a group of nearly 75 elite volunteer festival ambassadors who accept donations in small buckets in a systematic approach developed by Hunkler that leaves no inch of the festival uncovered during the event. Since Hunkler has assumed coordination of this important aspect of the festival, the group has surpassed collection records each year.

Hunkler's impressive skills as a planner, strategist and manager are on full display each year as he dispatches ambassadors throughout the festival to not only encourage essential donations but they also have become the face of the festival for information about tourism opportunities in the Butte area and throughout the region after attendees leave the festival and Butte for other places in Montana.

We'd also like to acknowledge the other nominees in this category and thank them for all they do for Montana tourism: 

  • Jackie Feigel, Livingston MT
  • Pamela Harr, Glendive MT
  • Mike Strang, Lima MT

Made in Montana

Choose Local

As Montana reopens, we encourage you to support your local Taste our Place establishments by ordering takeout, delivery or dining in. 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.  

Montana Film News

The Last Beyond

The Last Beyond” a Montana-Made film 14 years in the making, is available this week. Featuring Stephen Small Salmon and Noah Watts, two outstanding Native American actors, it’s a story set in the beginnings of the Great Depression. You’ll recognize many familiar places around Livingston, Montana. For more information, click here

Tribal News

Bison Coming Back to Rocky Boy

In December of this year, Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation will become home to 15 head of Yellowstone bison for the first time since the late ’90s.

The announcement was made on the Rocky Boy Sustainability Facebook page Monday, along with the announcement that the program now has accesses to funds for fencing which will be discussed in a meeting sponsored by Rocky Boy Sustainability/Planning on Friday.

Rocky Boy Sustainability Director Jason Belcourt said this is a huge deal for the reservation.

“It’s a big cultural win for us,” Belcourt said, “Buffalo was part of every part of our society back in the day, he was our primary food source, he was present in our ceremonies, there were songs tied to him.” Read more from the Havre Daily News here.

Cultural/Heritage News

PBS Presents "Prehistoric Road Trip"

Beginning June 17, get ready for an epic adventure through dinosaur country to discover the mysterious creatures and bizarre ecosystems that have shaped Earth as we know it.

With popular YouTube personality Emily Graslie as host and guide, the new PBS series "Prehistoric Road Trip", produced by Chicago’s PBS station WTTW, takes viewers on a journey to some of the world’s most active and dynamic fossil sites for an unforgettable expedition through hundreds of millions of years.

Watch on PBS stations nationwide on Wednesdays, June 17 - July 1, 2020 at 10/9c, and stream on PBS member station websites and the PBS app.

Extend the PREHISTORIC ROAD TRIP experience on the companion website,,  featuring original digital content, behind-the-scenes travel journals, an interactive road trip map and more.

Filming locations in Montana include:

  • Grass Range (Bear Gulch)
  • Malta (Great Plains Dinosaur Museum)
  • Bozeman (Museum of the Rockies)
  • Jordan, Montana
  • Ekalaka (Carter County Museum) – “Dino Shindig”
  • Yellowstone River/ Glendive

Outdoor Recreation

2020 Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit

In light of the unprecedented times and staying dedicated to furthering the conversation of outdoor recreation as an economic driver and integral to the economic diversity and well-being of communities in the State of Montana and greater transboundary Crown of the Continent region including Alberta and British Columbia, the 2020 Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit is being adapted to be held virtually.

The in-person Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit in Great Falls will move to next year (2021) with new date(s) to be announced. You can help decide how to move forward with the 2020 Business of Outdoor Recreation VIRTUAL Summit by filling out this survey by end of day June 8, 2020.


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.

Funding Resources

Coronavirus Relief Fund Grants

Families, small businesses, non-profits, health services centers and individuals across Montana hardest-hit by impacts of COVID-19 are eligible to apply for grants through 11 new programs created in response to the emergency.

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

  • NEW: Montana Meat Processing Infrastructure Grant
  • Montana Business Adaptation Program 
  • Montana Business Stabilization Program
  • Montana Innovation Grant Program

  • Montana Food and Agriculture Adaptability Program

  • Social Services Nonprofit Grants

  • Emergency Housing Assistance Program

See a complete list of new grant programs, eligibility requirements and apply at


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

October 4-6, 2020Northwest USA Spotlight Tourism Conference (Helena)—Spotlight is a 2.5 day tourism conference with educational seminars, networking functions, site-seeing tours and a supplier trade show. Attendance will consist of 30-35 QUALIFIED group tour operators and buyers (coming from all over the US and Canada) along with about 25-30 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