Commerce Connection

montana department of commerce
Census State Champ Graphic

Commerce Department Launches the 2020 Census State Championship

The Montana Department of Commerce today launched the 2020 Census State Championship to encourage counties and tribes in Montana to compete for the highest increase in self-response rates to the 2020 Census from now until September 30. With only 15 days left in the 2020 Census count, the Commerce Department and the Montana Complete Count Committee are urging every Montana resident to respond to the 2020 Census before the shortened deadline of September 30.

“This is the final countdown for the 2020 Census,” said Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, the Chair of the Montana Complete Count Committee. “The counties and tribes that win the 2020 Census State Championship will get not only bragging rights with a trophy to prove it, but will also receive their fair share of federal funding for the next 10 years, accurate representation in the state Legislature, and the knowledge that they contributed to the possibility of Montana regaining a second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Game on, Montana!”

There will be two winners for counties and two winners for tribal nations based on the percentage increase in self-response rates, as well as for the increase in the number of households that respond to the 2020 Census from today until September 30. To enter the championship, Montana residents who have not yet responded to the 2020 Census can do so at MY2020CENSUS.GOV, by calling 1-844-330-2020 or by mailing in the paper form if they received one. Track each county’s progress here.

The U.S. Census Bureau suspended all field operations from March to early May to slow the spread of COVID-19, and then cut short the deadline to September 30 to respond to the Census. As a result, Montana’s self-response rate is below the national average, with 59.1 percent of Montanans having self-responded to the 2020 Census, compared to the national average of 65.8 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Even with door-to-door counting by U.S. Census workers, Montana’s overall response rate is below the national average, and tribal nations and rural counties in Montana are at risk of an undercount.

The federal government is responsible for counting all households every 10 years, while the state supports the effort to educate and promote the importance of the Census. In June, Governor Steve Bullock allocated $530,500 to the Montana Department of Commerce to continue Census education and outreach efforts.

The Montana Department of Commerce is using that funding to partner with the Montana Nonprofit Association, Western Native Voice, Forward Montana Foundation and Missoula-based marketing agency Windfall to conduct targeted outreach aimed at low self-responding areas of the state to encourage residents in those areas to fill out the Census.

For every Montanan not counted, the state stands to lose an estimated $20,000 in federal funding over the next decade. Census information is also used to draw local voting and school districts, and it determines whether Montana will receive a second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

You can track your community’s progress in the 2020 Census State Championship here.

And respond to the 2020 Census today at MY2020CENSUS.GOV, by calling 1-844-330-2020, or by mailing in your paper Census form if you’ve received one.


FRIDAY DEADLINE: 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.

Dollar sign graphic

Montana Working Capital Program Now Open

The new Montana Working Capital program builds off the Montana Loan Deferment program by allowing Montana businesses to take out a new loan to support economic recovery. 

The Montana Working Capital program will allow Montana businesses to take out a new loan to be used for payroll, employee benefits, lease or rent, inventory, utilities, and insurance. Utilizing the unused portion of the $125 million allocated to the Montana Loan Deferment program, new borrowers can work through an approved lender to take out a loan with 35 percent of it granted through Coronavirus Relief Funds. The borrower would be responsible for making payments on the remaining 65 percent of the loan. The maximum loan size is $500,000 with a grant of $175,000. The borrower would then be responsible for making payments on the remaining $325,000.

To be eligible, borrowers must have experienced a 15 percent reduction in gross revenue attributed to the direct or indirect impacts of COVID-19. The rates and terms will be determined by the lender and borrower. Like the Montana Loan Deferment program, the new Montana Working Capital program will be run by the Board of Investments, in partnership with Montana banks and credit unions.

Apply with your local lender.

Circle Finance

Additional Coronavirus Relief Funds for Meat Processing, Nonprofits

Governor Steve Bullock has announced additional funding from the Coronavirus Relief Fund will be directed to the Montana Meat Processing Infrastructure Grant and Social Services Nonprofit Grant programs to fully address identified needs.

Governor Bullock announced additional funds will be committed to the Montana Meat Processing Infrastructure Grant Program. When the program originally accepted applications, it received an incredible amount of interest, and there was more demand than anticipated. Governor Bullock initially committed $2 million to the program and added funding to the program to award $7.5 million in grants. The Montana Department of Agriculture will review existing applications that have not yet been funded to determine additional awards through the program.

Governor Bullock also announced he is committing an additional $25 million to nonprofits and issued new guidelines for nonprofits to seek another round of funding. Larger nonprofits have communicated that the first round provided stabilization but identified additional need to continue programming and services continue over the long term.

Eligible nonprofits can now receive up to 10 percent of their 2019 annual operating budget, or a maximum grant of $150,000. Nonprofits must have an annual operating budget of at least $20,000 to apply and submit a budget of proposed uses of grant funds and certify that funds will be used only for pandemic-related purposes. As many grantees did with the business stabilization grant, nonprofits may request less than what they qualify for.

The nonprofit application will be available on September 15. Those who received a first round of funding will be contacted and invited to submit additional materials to be considered for the second round. New applicants will apply at


What to Know About the Federal Eviction Ban 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sept. 4 implemented a temporary eviction moratorium on all rental units nationwide, effective through the end of the year. 

Under the order, a landlord, owner of a residential property or other person with a legal right to pursue eviction or possessory action, may not evict any covered person from any residential property in the United States. 

The order protects from eviction any tenant, lessee or resident of a residential property who provides to their landlord, the owner of the residential property or other person with a legal right to pursue eviction or a possessory action, a declaration under penalty of perjury indicating that:

  • The individual has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing
  • The individual either expects to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return), was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) pursuant to Section 2201 of the CARES Act
  • The individual is unable to pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a lay-off or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses
  • The individual is using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other nondiscretionary expenses
  • Eviction would likely render the individual homeless— or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting— because the individual has no other available housing options.

The order does not relieve any individual of any obligation to pay rent, make a housing payment or comply with any other obligation that the individual may have under a tenancy, lease or similar contract. Nothing in the order stops the charging or collecting of fees, penalties or interest as a result of the failure to pay rent or other housing payment on a timely basis, under the terms of any applicable contract.

Read more here.

Rental home

More Montanans Can Now Qualify for Emergency Rent, Mortgage Payment Assistance

More Montanans may now be eligible for monthly rent and mortgage assistance. Montana Housing has made updates to the Emergency Housing Assistance program to help more Montanans access emergency housing assistance.

Program Updates:

  • 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 has eliminated 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 

New Videos Urge Members of Tribal Nations in Montana to Respond to the 2020 Census

Tribal Influencers

Three well-known influencers of tribes in Montana are lending their voices to convey the importance of the 2020 Census for tribal nations in Montana and to urge those who have not yet completed the nine-question Census to do so before the shortened deadline of September 30.

“Responding to the Census is really quick and easy. It’s completely COVID-safe,” said Lily Gladstone, actor and descendant of the Blackfeet Nation. “It might sound boring or like it doesn’t really matter if you do it or not, but it really matters. Overall, $2 billion of federal funding goes to Montana based on Census information – and millions of that money is allocated to serving tribes and Natives across the state.”

The videos will be shared across social media platforms, aimed at reaching tribal members in low-response areas of Montana. One video features Gladstone, who was awarded Best Supporting Actress by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the Boston Society of Film Critics for her role in "Certain Women" and can be seen in last year’s "First Cow." Another is of Jason Smith, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Director of the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs. And a third video is of Donnie Wetzel Jr., a member of Blackfeet Nation, education leader, mentor and co-creator of the Montana Indian Athletic Hall of Fame.

In Montana, nearly a quarter homes do not receive mail at a traditional household address. In some Montana counties and reservation areas, almost all households do not have city-style addresses. That means many Montanans did not get their Census materials in the mail earlier this spring because the U.S. Census Bureau does not mail to P.O. boxes or Rural Route addresses.

Montanans who haven’t 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.

Watch and download the videos here