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The East Glacier Park Lodge has been boarded up for the 2020 tourist season thanks to COVID-19.

The Montana Department of Commerce has announced business stabilization grants for small businesses located on the east edge of Glacier National Park are now available. 

“Tourism-reliant businesses in the Babb–St. Mary-East Glacier corridor may be eligible to apply for a grant of up to 25 percent of their 2019 gross revenue based on a 2019 tax return,” DOC announced last week.

The impact of these grants cannot be overstated. According to Charlene Burns, co-owner of the Cattle Baron Steak House in Babb, “I think the stabilization grants are critical to everyone all over the country, but especially to the economy of our reservation. Due to our location, we are not near a large city. Our economy is based on tourism mostly. So in the summer we all have to work very hard  to make our payments for the whole year. All the small businesses make our living in this manner and try to employ as many of our people as we can. 

“This summer our tribe made the decision to close all businesses on the East side of Glacier to try to protect our people. I think it was a wise decision due to the health disparities of our people. 

“We already have one of the highest unemployment rates in the winter. It will be one of the most difficult winters for our people without the stabilization grants. We can put together critical thinking of how to fuse them back into the economy. We really need to shop locally this year and try our best to support our own economic base,” she said.

The grant maximum is set at $40,000, and each grant will subtract from the total amount available to such businesses. 

“The business must be located along the eastern edge of Glacier Park in the immediate vicinity of East Glacier, St. Mary or Babb, and must be a Montana-based business, pay Montana taxes, in good standing with the Secretary of State or local tribal government,” the announcement continued. 

The total funding is set at $2 million, and each business must have already tried and failed to secure a Business Stabilization or Agriculture Adaptability grant. Applications opened on Wednesday, Aug. 19.

This comes on the heels of an updated Montana Business Stabilization Grant program for small businesses to support payroll, rent, accounts payable, debt service and expenses related to shifts in operations in order to retain existing businesses, retain current employees or retain business viability for future re-employment. The total amount reserved is $160 million, and the maximum award per business now stands at $20,000, double the previous amount. The updated program now applies to up to six months of working capital instead of three, so previous applicants may apply for an additional three months while new applicants may apply for the entire six month period.

For more information and to apply for a grant, go to https://commerce.mt.gov/BusinessRecovery.

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