The Montana House of Representatives has passed HB 632 which allocates Montana’s federal COVID-19 relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress last month.

House Majority Spokesman Dylan Klapmeier provided details.

“In March, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act or ARPA that was the latest COVID relief package passed by Congress with allocations to the states,” said Klapmeier. “So from that, Montana received almost $3 billion from that act by Congress, and the legislature had direct control over about 960 million of that.”

Klapmeier said the legislature has been trying to figure out how to allocate the funds.

“For the past few weeks, the legislature has been diligently working to figure out how to best allocate the $960 million,” he said. “Montana Republicans don't think it was very fiscally responsible for Congress to pass the act by taking out more debt to do so. The House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees said they were committed to putting these funds towards long term infrastructure investments.”

Klapmeier said the bill passed with a strong bipartisan vote.

“Basically what they did with House Bill 632 that we just passed today on a bipartisan vote of 83 to 14, is that the Appropriations Committee put these funds into three main buckets,” he said. “Those buckets were infrastructure, telecommunications and economic stabilization. The point being we need to make long term investments for future generations.”

Klapmeier said the federal funding had already prioritized education and healthcare.

“Education, which includes primarily K-12, but with some higher education funding as well, is going to receive about $420 million,” he said. “On the healthcare side, there's going to be about $400 million, and that's going to healthcare services as well, primarily through Montana DPHHS programs.”

House Bill 632 is being carried by Rep. Frank Garner (R-Kalispell). It will now go to the Montana Senate for further consideration.

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