Commerce Connection

montana department of commerce
Meadowlark Brewing

Meadowlark Brewing in Sidney, Mont. is among more than 8,200 businesses to receive a Business Stabilization Grant

Commerce Department Sends $123.4 Million to Over 8,200 Small Businesses

The Montana Department of Commerce announced Friday that more than 8,200 small businesses in Montana have now received $123.4 million through Governor Steve Bullock’s Business Stabilization Program, funded by the Coronavirus Relief Fund. 

First launched in May, small businesses based in Montana with fewer than 50 employees that have experienced a loss in revenue due to the pandemic were eligible for grants of up to $10,000 or three-months of working capital, whichever was less. Governor Bullock announced last week that the program would expand to provide a second grant to all 8,237 businesses that received the first as long as they still met eligibility requirements. As of Friday, nearly 6,000 of those businesses have already requested their second award and have received payment. 

“Small businesses fuel Montana’s economy which is why we’re honored to report that $123.4 million has now gone directly to businesses in every single Montana county to help them weather the economic impacts of the pandemic,” Commerce Director Tara Rice said. “Business Stabilization grants are just one option among a suite of tools available to support Montana’s small businesses, and we know these support systems are helping keep businesses open.” 

The Montana Business Stabilization Program provides working capital for small businesses to support payroll, rent, accounts payable, debt service and expenses related to shifts in operations 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. 

New applicants to the program are now eligible for up to $20,000 or six months of working capital, whichever is less. The online application is available at COVIDRELIEF.MT.GOV


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UPDATES: Live Entertainment Grant Program

The Live Entertainment Grant Program is available to Montana-based businesses and non-profits that are directly engaged in the business of live entertainment, and whose revenues primarily come from live entertainment events. This grant is intended to ensure the long-term viability of live entertainment in Montana that has been severely impacted by COVID-19. Bars, restaurants, and other facilities whose primary business is anything other than live entertainment are not eligible. Businesses that are not directly responsible for the production of live entertainment events in Montana are not eligible. Examples of ineligible businesses include wedding venues, event support software, tradeshows, event planners, and tour operators. To be eligible, applicants must have either derived at least 33% of their 2019 revenue from the sale of tickets for live events or must be businesses that are directly reliant on ticketed live entertainment events but are not directly in receipt of ticket revenue. That includes only the following business types: venues, event promoters, event production, lighting and sound, rigging and stagehands, security, and other physical infrastructure. Eligible applicants’ revenue for Q2 (April 1 – June 30) 2020 must also be no greater than 10% of 2019’s Q2 (April 1 – June 30) revenue. Total funding available is $10 million.


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DEADLINE APPROACHING: Montana Loan Deferment Program 

The Montana Loan Deferment Program, funded through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, will stop taking applications on September 18, 2020

Applicants must show at least a 15 percent decline in gross revenue as a result of the pandemic. Businesses must apply directly through their lender. For more program details go to COVIDRELIEF.MT.GOV.

Mask Up, Montana

Masks are now required in counties with more than four active COVID-19 cases, and strongly encouraged in all other counties, for individuals over 5-years-old in public indoor spaces and outdoor settings where social distancing cannot be maintained.

Governor Bullock issued the directive July 15 to require businesses, government offices and other indoor spaces open to the public to ensure that employees, contractors, volunteers, customers, and other members of the public wear a face mask that covers their mouth and nose while remaining inside these spaces. The directive also requires face coverings at organized outdoor activities of 50 or more people, where social distancing is not possible or is not observed.

-------> The full directive can be found here

-------> The map of active cases can be found here.

If you're looking for a Montana-made mask, check out our list of companies producing masks, sanitizers and other PPE. 

Click for Montana Made Masks

Governor Bullock at Helena's Women's Mural

Governor Bullock Recognizes Women’s Equality Day by Extending Montana’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force Through 2022

Governor Steve Bullock today, in recognition of Women’s Equality Day, renewed his equal pay Executive Order and extended the Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force through 2022 to continue its work to narrow the wage gap.

“Every person in Montana has a stake in ensuring women and men are paid a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” Governor Bullock said. “The actions and advocacy of the Task Force continue to move the needle toward progress and an economy that works for all Montanans. It’s an honor to recognize Women’s Equality Day in Montana by extending the Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force for the next two years. Just as Women’s Equality Day recognizes tremendous progress, we also know our work isn’t yet done.”

Governor Bullock was joined by several members of his Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force at the iconic women’s mural in Helena to make the announcement. Governor Bullock first created Montana’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force in 2013 to bring together business, education, tribal, nonprofit, labor and government leaders to raise awareness of and take steps to narrow Montana’s gender wage gap. Since launching in 2013, the gap between what men and women earn has narrowed from 67 percent to 73.2 percent.

In its seven years, the task force has led pay audits in state government to identify women who are underemployed and address and overcome unconscious gender bias. Additionally, 40 state employees were trained to provide Wage Smart wage negotiation trainings to ensure women have the tools to negotiate for a competitive salary. The task force has also encouraged hundreds of businesses to sign a pledge to support closing the gender wage gap and created a toolkit for wage equity best practices for businesses to utilize.

The task force has also successfully supported legislation, including a bill to remove barriers for survivors of domestic abuse, sexual assault, and stalking to get unemployment benefits. Other legislation introduced to shrink the wage gap, such as bills to provide paycheck protection and ensure pay transparency, were unsuccessful.

To further raise awareness of economic equity, the Task Force has created a virtual audio exhibit featuring four women in Montana succeeding in leadership-roles in male-dominated industries. The exhibit photos show 26.8 percent of the image removed to represent the 26.8 percent wage gap women in Montana experience. The photos include audio stories from Blackfeet Nation fashion designer Belinda Bullshoe, Northern Rockies Medical Center CEO Cheri Taylor, DNRC forestry specialist and former hotshot Ali Ulwelling, and software project manager and First Lady of Montana Lisa Bullock. The exhibit can be found online at EQUALPAY.MT.GOV.

Governor Bullock’s Executive Order extending the Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force is available here. The following individuals will serve on the Task Force until 2022:

  • Co-Chair Tara Rice, Montana Department of Commerce Director
  • Co-Chair Brenda Nordlund, Montana Department of Labor & Industry Commissioner
  • Jamie Palagi, Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services Division Administator, Helena
  • Jen Euell, Director, Women's Foundation of Montana, Missoula
  • Representative Laurie Bishop, Livingston
  • Senator Diane Sands, Missoula
  • Paddy Fleming, Director, Montana Manufacturing Extension Center, Bozeman
  • Carole Lankford, Councilmember, Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, Pablo
  • Tracy McIntyre, Executive Director, Montana Cooperative Development Center, Great Falls
  • Kelly Webster, Chief of Staff, University of Montana, Missoula
  • Lauren Caldwell, Montana Federation of Public Employees, Political Director & Student Program Coordinator, Helena
  • Jen Perry, Jelt Belt, Owner, Bozeman
  • Lilly Corning, Corning Companies, Realtor, Billings
  • John Cummings, Anderson Zurmuehlen & Co., Human Resources Director, Helena
Audio Exhibit Banner

Listen to the pay equity virtual audio exhibit here or download a printable version to display at your organization.


UPDATES: Mortgage, Rental Assistance Available

Beginning August 31, Montana Housing’s Emergency Housing Assistance program will implement eligibility changes to provide rent, security deposit, mortgage payment, and/ or hazard insurance assistance for Montanans who have lost a job or substantial income loss as a result of COVID-19. 

Starting August 31:

  • Montana Housing will pay the difference between 25 percent of the household’s current net monthly income and their eligible housing assistance costs, up to $2,000 a month with a minimum monthly payment of $250. Household income limits range from $75,000-$125,000 based on family size. Montanans receiving other forms of housing assistance are not eligible.
  • The program is eliminating the $10,000 readily available assets limit. 

Emergency Housing Assistance applicants who need assistance with the application can contact NeighborWorks Montana at or by calling 406.604.4500.

Apply here

Transparency Dashboard Updated Weekly

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. 

Funds have now been distributed to all 56 Montana counties. 


  • 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


Upcoming Application Deadlines 

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Montana 2020 Census Partners Increase Outreach Efforts to Get an Accurate Count for Montana

The Montana Department of Commerce today detailed some of the increased 2020 Census outreach efforts made possible by statewide partners through funding allocated by Governor Steve Bullock from the Coronavirus Relief Fund. With 35 days remaining in the count, the state and partners are making final push to get a complete count of Montanans before September 30.

“An accurate count in the 2020 Census will help Montana get its fair share of federal funding, put our state in the best possible position to gain back a second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and help us plan for the next ten years,” said Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, who is the chair of the Montana Complete Count Committee“With the deadline to respond to the Census fast approaching, the Montana Department of Commerce and statewide partners are all-hands-on-deck to ensure Montanans know the importance of being counted.”

Sharing $530,500 allocated from the Coronavirus Relief Fund, the partners have amplified their ongoing efforts to increase Montana’s 2020 Census count by reaching Montanans in hard-to-count areas of the state.

One of the partners, the Montana Nonprofit Association (MNA), has hired a rancher and former mayor in central Montana with field organizing experience to help reach local communities in low-responding rural counties. The statewide nonprofit organization also worked with the Montana Association of Counties to mail 52,000 post cards, including cards mailed on behalf of county governments, to low-response counties earlier this month. Additionally, MNA is working with state and tribal officials to design cards to mail to households on reservations in Montana.

Western Native Voice, along with Man Power, a local tribal organization, recently organized a drive-thru Census response station in Browning. The event added 200 residents to the 2020 Census count. Western Native Voice is in the process of hiring up to 50 organizers across the state to mobilize the Native count.

Additionally, the Forward Montana Foundation has hired six full-time employees to encourage college students and younger populations in Montana to respond to the 2020 Census. The Forward Montana Foundation expects to reach more than 40,000 young residents and students through targeted outreach efforts.

The U.S. Census Bureau suspended all field operations from March to early May to slow the spread of COVID-19, which put Montana’s response rate below the national average. The Census Bureau initially extended the deadline from July 31 to October 31 to respond to challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, but earlier this month, announced it will cut its 2020 Census count operations short by a month, to end on September 30.

While the federal government is tasked with counting all households every 10 years, the state supports the effort to educate and promote the importance of the Census.

An accurate and complete count of all Montanans is critical for determining the federal funding distributed to the state – overall, more than $2 billion from 300 federal programs is allocated back to Montana based on Census information. The Census count also shapes local voting and school districts, and it determines whether Montana will receive a second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

To date, 57.5 percent of Montana households have self-responded to the Census. Montanans who have not yet responded to the 2020 Census can do so by going to MY2020CENSUS.GOV, by calling 1-844-330-2020, or by mailing in their Census form if they received one in the mail.