At a press conference in Helena on Wednesday, Governor Steve Bullock addressed a topic that many critics have been asking about, namely what has happened to the $1.25 billion that Montana received from the federal stimulus bill.

“In just three months we’ve allocated about $800 million to respond to both the short and long term economic needs of Montanans,” said Bullock. “The Coronavirus Relief Fund was intended to assist states in responding to this pandemic through December, which is still six months away. Eligible expenses must be incurred in this year, because we know that things have rapidly changed throughout the pandemic and it’s clear that the virus is still presenting significant challenges to our health and safety as well as our economic stability. We have to ensure that we have the economic resources to weather the next six months.”

Bullock said one of the testing facilities that has been used by the state is no longer available, so he announced that ‘a Montana solution has been found’.

“Today I’m pleased to announce that we have found a Montana solution,” he said. “We’ll be partnering with Montana State University right here at home in our state for the processing of our tests for surveillance of asymptomatic samples. Our state labs working with the University on the validation of their machine as we speak and we anticipate that the University’s lab will be able to begin testing live samples from 500 people per day starting as early as next week.”

Governor Bullock introduced MSU President Waded Cruzado, who had a gift for the governor and General Matthew Quinn, adjutant of the Montana National Guard.

“This is Montana State’s ‘Clean Cat Kit’,” said President Cruzado. “We will be giving this out to all of our faculty, students and staff at the beginning of this fall semester. It contains, of course, an MSU face mask, and I have noticed that you need one, a spritz bottle of surface disinfectant, a bottle of hand sanitizer, and three machine washable cloths to wipe down surfaces.”

Governor Bullock also announced that the state has finalized a contract with a reference lab, MAKO Medical in North Carolina, to begin processing an anticipated 1,000 tests each day from Montana.