03.10.21

Daines Introduces Bills to Support Montana Rural Counties

U.S. SENATE – U.S. Senator Steve Daines today introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure Montana’s rural communities get a fair opportunity to apply for federal grants to help them support local economies.                                    

“This legislation will help ensure Montana’s rural counties have better access in competing for, and securing, federal resources that are important to help grow their local economies,” Daines stated.

The federal government manages roughly 28 percent of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the United States, the majority of which is found in Western states, including in many counties in Montana. This can limit localities’ ability to generate tax revenue, a particular burden for communities that are typically small, rural, and under-resourced. The “More Opportunities for Rural Economies (MORE) Grants Package” works to address this disparity by providing more constructive grant competitions to build and maintain local infrastructure. 

Daines introduced this legislative package, the “More Opportunities for Rural Economies (MORE) Grants Package,” with Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.).

Background:

The “More Opportunities for Rural Economies (MORE) Grants Act” would create a definition of High-Density Public Land Counties defined by the acreage of an individual county or local jurisdiction greater than 50% owned or managed by the federal government in any form and where the population is less than 100,000. This designation would allow applicants to reduce federal match requirements, receive greater technical assistance support, and be prioritized for financial support if they haven’t utilized the program recently. The legislative package is broken down in two sections: 

The first piece of legislation, the “More Opportunities for Rural Economies (MORE) from USDA Grants Act,” also supported by Senators James Risch (Idaho) and Mike Crapo (Idaho), seeks to increase access to: 

  • Rural Business Development grant program; 
  • Economic Impact Initiative grant program; 
  • Telemedicine and Distance Learning Services grant program; 
  • Community Connect Grant Program; 
  • Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program or the “ReConnect Program”; or 
  • Any other discretionary grant program of the Department of Agriculture Rural Development divisions under which grants are awarded to— (i) counties; (ii) other units of local government; or (iii) Tribal governments. 

The second piece of legislation, the “More Opportunities for Rural Economies (MORE) from DOT Grants Act,” would increase access to: 

  • Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation discretionary grant program; 
  • Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program; 
  • Public transportation innovation grant program; 
  • Public transportation safety program; 
  • Federal lands access program; 
  • Airport Improvement Program (AIP); 
  • Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program (CRISI); or 
  • Any other discretionary grant program of the Department of Transportation under which grants are awarded to— (i) counties; (ii) other units of local government; or (iii) Tribal governments. 

This package will have a direct impact on Beaverhead, Granite, Jefferson, Lincoln, Mineral, Park, Ravalli, Sanders and Silver Bow Counties

These bills enjoy the support of the National Association of Counties (NACO).