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Bullock announces measures regarding COVID-19 testing and unemployment benefits for Montanans

Posted: 6:06 PM, Mar 17, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-17 20:18:45-04
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GREAT FALLS — Governor Steve Bullock on Tuesday made two announcement about the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Montana.

Bullock said that uninsured Montanans who receive a recommendation from a provider will be eligible to receive coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment.

Under the governor’s emergency authority, state funds - with potential for federal funds - will be used to pay for COVID-19 testing for Montanans without health insurance.

If confirmed positive for COVID-19, funds will be used to cover treatment costs. Montanans will be required to provide a recommendation from a provider according to current CDC guidance and the state will reimburse them for that provider visit.

Medicaid, Medicare, and CHIP recipients are currently eligible for coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment.

The option will be available to uninsured Montanans starting Monday, March 23. To access the new emergency assistance, Montanans should call 406-444-7605 or email HHSPresumptive@mt.gov.

Bullock also announced emergency rules to make unemployment benefits accessible to workers laid off due to COVID-19 and waive the typical one week waiting period before receiving benefits.

The U.S. Department of Labor approved a request from the Montana Department of Labor & Industry to support workers financially impacted by COVID-19. The rules filed on Tuesday with the Secretary of State’s office will go into effect immediately.

The rules allow a claimant directed by their employer to leave work or not report to work due to COVID-19 to qualify as being temporarily laid off by the employer and eligible for benefits. Workers who must quarantine or who need to take care of a family member due to COVID-19 are also considered temporarily laid off and eligible for benefits.

Additionally, the emergency rules allow DLI to waive the one week waiting period before typically receiving benefits to ensure Montanans don’t experience a long gap without a paycheck.

Montana employers will also receive help through these rules. Individual claims will not be chargeable to a specific employer’s account. The rules also include a provision that could extend the time employers have to file wage reports and pay unemployment insurance contributions if the delay is related to COVID-19.

Claimants are responsible for staying in contact with their employer and return to work when they have the opportunity. Claimants are not eligible for benefits if they could work from home but choose not to.

People who think they are eligible for these benefits can apply for benefits online at: montanaworks.gov or contact the Unemployment Insurance Division over the phone at for UI benefits online or over the phone at: (406) 444-2545.

As of Tuesday, March 17, there are nine confirmed COVID-19 cases in Montana:

  • Missoula County: man in his 20s
  • Yellowstone County: woman in her 20s
  • Gallatin County (2): man in his 40s, and man in his 20s; both recovering at home; both acquired through international travel
  • Yellowstone County: woman in her 50s; recovering at home; acquired through international travel
  • Butte-Silver Bow County: man in his 50s; recovering at home; acquired domestically in affected areas out of state
  • Broadwater County: man in his 50s; recovering at home; acquired domestically in affected areas out of state
  • Missoula County (2): a man in his 50s, and a woman in her 30s

We will keep you updated as we get more information.

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses, you can take the following steps to protect yourself and your family.

  • To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses, you can take the following steps to protect yourself and your family.
  • Stay home if you’re sick,
  • Cover your cough and sneezes with the crook of your elbow or a tissue
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and wash your hands frequently
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe
  • Call ahead to a healthcare professional if you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you live in or have recently traveled to an area with ongoing spread. Tell your healthcare professional about your recent travel or contact.

NOTE: In addition to the confirmed cases actually IN Montana, there is another Montanan confirmed to have COVID-19. That person, from Lake County, is a part-time Montana resident with no documented exposures or close contacts in Montana, and was not tested in Montana. She was tested and diagnosed in Maryland, where she currently is residing.