Applying pressure to decision makers

Resort Tax District vies for testing kits and CARES Act funds

With ski season in mind, Big Sky Resort Area District (Resort Tax) focuses on applying pressure on the congressional and state levels. The goal is to have a smart or sentinel testing program for COVID-19 in place for the community before skis hit the slopes.

“Everybody on this board is aware that we made a lot of great strides with Bozeman Health,” Resort Tax chairman Kevin Germain said during the August meeting. “Then when we got into the June timeframe it was pretty clear and evident that the state didn’t have the reagents and the testing resources to implement a widespread smart or sentinel testing program for our community.”

Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester as well as Congressman Greg Gianforte all heard from Resort Tax board members in their efforts to procure more testing supplies for the state of Montana. Staff members from each representative are now dedicated to working on that effort.

They reached-out to Gov. Steve Bullock’s Chief of Staff via email as well as the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services and the Division Administrator of Communicable Diseases. The state controls the allocation of testing kits and of federal CARES Act dollars. With Montana State University (MSU) about to process 2,000 COVID-19 tests per day, Germain said he was hoping to get the Big Sky community in that queue of testing capacity that MSU will have.

“If we hit a brick wall with the state, do we go about this on our own?,” he asked.

He said he is 100% convinced that smart or sentinel testing is worth the financial commitment.

“Our private businesses have engaged a third party to do this smart or surveillance testing and we are finding quite a few asymptomatic cases. We are able to isolate them, quarantine their contacts and we have seen those percentages decrease as we have been doing the testing,” he said.

He sees sentinel testing as instrumental in keeping the community safe while keeping businesses open.

“I am very hopeful and cautiously optimistic that we will get the proper support from the state to do this. If we can’t, I hope we can pursue Plan B,” he said.

If the state does not come through, then debate already surfaced around Plan B. The concept of Big Sky going it alone will pose the question: Who pays and how much?

Resort Tax Secretary and Treasurer Steve Johnson asked about funding ideas – would there be a pool created of money from local employers? Maybe matching funds would be a good option, he suggested.

Germain said that many are already struggling from the impacts of COVID–19. The district is going to keep pushing, he asserted.

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