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Politics Pop: Missoula County hits benchmarks to lift event capacities
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Politics Pop: Missoula County hits benchmarks to lift event capacities

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Missoula County announced on Thursday it has reached parameters to lift event capacity limits.

The Missoula Health Board voted on March 18 to lift restrictions on the county's COVID-19 mitigation requirement policy for event capacities if certain parameters were met. Those include a vaccine dose administration rate of at least 600 per 1,000 Missoula County residents, and a case incident rate — which is based on a seven-day rolling average — no higher than 25 per 100,000 people.

As of March 31, the vaccine dose rate was 603 per 1,000 people and the case incident rate was 15 per 100,000, meaning that the county met both parameters. 

The order allows for event managers to set their own rules, with consolation from the health department — many of the event requirements became recommendations. Masks are still part of the requirement.

"Over the last year, the Health Department has worked with several event organizers who have been very thoughtful about the modification of their events to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We trust that local event organizers will continue to come up with creative solutions to prevent the spread of COVID-19," says a health department news release.

The county stressed caution and those in the community should continue to wear masks, distance when possible and wash hands frequently moving forward.

"Vaccination can pull us out of this pandemic, but only if we continue to take precautions until enough people get the vaccine. We are making good progress in Missoula, but we're not there, yet," Missoula County Health Officer Ellen Leahy said in the release.

About 22% of the eligible population in Missoula County is fully vaccinated. On Friday morning, 20 new COVID-19 cases were added in the county and 119 total cases were active.

As of Monday, 60,183 total COVID-19 vaccinations had been administered and 21,698 people in the county are fully vaccinated.

Grant applications

Missoula County has opened grant applications for the Community Assistance Fund (CAF) and the Substance Abuse Mill Levy. 

The deadline for application submission is May 12 at 3 p.m. The county opened the process on March 30. Applications are available online at missoulacounty.us/fundingopportunities. The grant funding is for FY 2022 which runs from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022.

The process is extremely competitive, and proposals go through a review process by both citizen committees and county staff, according to a news release.

The assistance fund dates back to 1877, when county commissions were directed by the Territory of Montana to use taxes for a special fund to the poor. In 2008, Missoula County voted to approve the Substance Abuse Prevention Mill Levy to support preventative programs in the county.

Aging Services, the Missoula Food Bank, the Human Resource Council, Mountain Home Montana and the Salvation Army are some of the organizations that have received assistance fund grant money in the past.

“Managing the Community Assistance Fund on behalf of Missoula County is one of the highlights of my position,” Nancy Rittel, a grants administrator for the county, said in a release. “Seeing how such a broad array of nonprofit organizations are able to provide vital, basic human needs to babies, children, teenage youth, the elderly and disabled because of the county’s assistance is extremely gratifying.”

The mill levy provides $368,920 each year to "help grow healthy youth and families and reduce the negative consequences and high costs of substance abuse," the release said.

Applicants must show how they use effective strategies based on several parameters, including preventative efforts, community education, and early intervention efforts.

Mobile crisis unit contract amended

On Thursday, the Missoula County Board of Commissioners approved amended professional service agreements with the Missoula Fire Department and Partnership Health Center.

The agreement with Partnership Health Center is worth $228,295, while the contract with the fire department is $176,659. The money comes from four sources, including the State Department of Health and Human Services Mobile Crisis Grant, the DPHHS County Tribal Matching Grant, city of Missoula and Missoula County contributions.

"So what these amendments do is clarify the sources of funding, which are namely the mobile crisis grant we got from the state, the county tribal matching grant and there's a cash match provided by the city and county," Erin Kautz, a county grants administrator, told the board Thursday. "Those are the four sets of funding that helps support this program and the amendments help clarify that."

The end date for the agreement was set to be June 30, 2021 and this will extend those services.

Jordan Hansen covers news and local government for the Missoulian. Contact him on Twitter @jordyhansen or via email at Jordan.Hansen@Missoulian.com

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