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Montana Community Groups Work To Ease Financial Strain From COVID-19

This image from United Way Yellowstone's website shows the donations made, volunteer hours worked and books donated as of Apr. 13, 2020.
United Way of Yellowstone
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United Way of Yellowstone
This image from United Way Yellowstone's website shows the donations made, volunteer hours worked and books donated as of Apr. 13, 2020.

Helping Montanans impacted by the coronavirus outbreak has energized the private sector into creating emergency assistance funds for the needs of individuals and nonprofits in their communities. 

Danica Jamison with Greater Gallatin United Way says what Montana is facing is more than a health crisis.

"As much as we are seeing this as a health crisis for our community, it’s maybe even more so an economic crisis. And there are going to be long term economic challenges that arise for individuals and families in our communities," Jamison said. 

With that challenge in mind United Way groups in Bozeman, Billings, Great Falls and Missoula are raising funds to provide a rapid response to the needs of people and groups in the communities.

Jamison’s group has joined with the Bozeman Area Community Foundation to create the Southwest Montana COVID-19 Response Fund to streamline support and direct finances to they’re needed most. A challenge grant of $100,000 dollars from AMB West Philanthropies helped launch their fundraising.

Their focus is on primary needs such as food and supplies, emergency housing and emergency financial assistance for a four county region of Gallatin, Park, Madison and Meagher. As the crisis evolves and new needs arise Jamison says their scope may change or expand.

Southwest Montana COVID-19 Response Fund has a group that meets weekly to review funding requests and their first expenditure was $10,000 to support HRDC’s warming center’s day operation in Bozeman.

"The warming center was forced to close a couple of weeks ago with the shelter in place mandate. And has been offering day services of showers, access to laundry, and gear and a check in for individuals who could benefit from that who have been experiencing homelessness in our community," Jamison said. 

United Way in Yellowstone County was approached by local donors wanting to help locals impacted by COVID-19. That brought them and the Billings Community Foundation together to form the COVID-19 Community Response Fund. Their service region covers the needs of a nine county area around Billings, helping with such needs as shelter and housing assistance, food security as well as existing services for vulnerable populations.

Lisa McDaniel, spokeswoman for United Way of Yellowstone County, says they have a committee that meets weekly to review requests and award funding,

"There have been about $40,000 worth of requests to this point and they are meeting this afternoon to decide which ones to fund right now," McDaniel said. 

United Way of Cascade County has created a COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to support local organizations who are seeing an increased demand for their services.

United Way of Missoula has established the Emergency/Disaster Relief Fund for COVID-19 Relief to help local people most in need because of the pandemic.

Lisa McDaniel with United Way of Yellowstone County says people who don't have the funds to donate can still help out.

"There’s so much you can do from the comfort of your home. If you don’t have the ability to donate financially right now, we know there are senior citizens who would love to get some mail and just a bright smile," McDaniel said.