Helena, Montana

Lawmaker wants to offer grants to entice workers to rural Montana

HELENA — Rep. Joel Krautter (R-Sidney) said Montana’s urban counties are rapidly expanding and spearheading the state’s economic growth while rural counties are being left behind.

“But for Montana’s other 44 counties—our rural areas—we are seeing a population flatlining. Where are we going to be in 15, 20, 30 years? Are we just going to be a state of seven urban booming areas and 44 ghost counties?” he said.

Legislature advancing bills to help train, recruit and retain teachers in rural Montana

Krautter is sponsoring House Bill 405, which would appropriate about $1 million from a special state fund every year in grants to bring skilled workers into rural areas.

How much money is given to workers would depend on experience and location, but wouldn’t be more than $15,000. The state would only pay half the amount, with local governments and employers matching the other half.

Krautter said different people have different needs and they can use the funding however they like, whether it’s to pay back student loans or for a down payment on a house.

Krautter also said he wants people to stay in these communities, so those getting funding would be forced into a five-year commitment.

“Five years also gives enough time to establish roots and relationships in a community. And that’s ultimately what we want. We want people who are going to stay beyond the five years.” he said.

The bill had 12 supporters and no opponents when it was heard before the House Business and Labor Committee Monday.

-Tim Pierce reporting for the UM Legislative News Service, University of Montana School of Journalism

Tim Pierce is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Greater Montana Foundation and the Montana Newspaper Association.

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