Affected by the shutdown? These resources can help

brown bridge against green scenery
PHOTO: Andrew Kemmis Photography

As it enters its second month, the government shutdown continues to impact hundreds of federal employees and contractors in Missoula County. With more missed paychecks on the horizon, Missoula County has compiled the following list of resources that are providing assistance to furloughed federal employees and contractors in our communities.

Financial assistance

Several local banks are offering low or no-interest loans and other financial assistance to furloughed workers:

Missoula Federal Credit Union
Emergency loans for federal employees. The maximum loan size will be one month’s gross pay, up to $5,000, and there will be no payments required for the first 90 days.  Full-time financial counselor on staff to help members free of charge.

Farmers State Bank 
Emergency Assistance Consumer Loans. Designed for those affected by the government shutdown, this consumer loan is meant to assist individuals with mortgage or car payments, groceries, medical bills, etc. Proof of furlough is needed or proof of working with payment being held during shutdown. Details online.

First Interstate Bank
Offering payment due date extensions, minimal fees.

Wells Fargo
Call the recently established customer assistance line at 800-219-9739 to be connected with a team member who can assist based on needs, or visit any Wells Fargo branch for assistance. Fees waived. Individual assistance offered based on needs.

Navy Federal Credit Union
The credit union is offering 0% APR loans during the government shutdown.

First Command Financial Services
Offering clients who are federal employees interest-free payroll advances and other assistance.

Democracy Federal Credit Union
Call 800-742-5582 for information on short-term emergency loans with 0% interest.

Agencies providing unemployment information and financial advice include:

Montana Department of Labor and Industry
FAQ for furloughed federal employees. Due to high call volume, the best way to file a claim is online at www.ui4u.mt.gov. Furloughed employees needing computer access can visit the Missoula Job Service, 539 S. Third St. W.

VALIC
Can assist with emergency hardship withdrawals from retirement plans for Missoula County staff who have family members impacted by the shutdown.

Nationwide
Can assist with emergency hardship withdrawals from retirement plans for Missoula County staff who have family members impacted by the shutdown.

TANF
Income-based cash assistance program providing temporary assistance for families in need.

Missoula County Clerk and Treasurer
Will offer temporary assistance for motor vehicle registration and property tax payments. Federal employees can fill out a form before renewing their registration at the courthouse, and the department will place a hold on cashing checks until the shutdown ends. Should the shutdown last through May, when the next property tax bills are due, property tax payments will be discussed.

Temporary work

Furloughed employees seeking temporary work can tap into the following resources:

Missoula County Human Resources 
Missoula County frequently has openings for short-term employment. Go online or call 258-4874 for more information.

Temp agencies in Missoula
Express
Nelson
People Ready
Work Force
LC Staffing
A to Z Personnel

Energy, utility and housing assistance

The following programs can offer assistance with household utilities during the shutdown:

LIEAP
Provides supplemental heating assistance for a household’s primary source of heat. To apply, call the Human Resource Council at 728-3710 or walk in from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Located at 1801 S. Higgins Ave.

Energy Share
Helps households facing an immediate energy emergency when they have exhausted all other resources. Energy Share can help households who have used up their energy assistance benefit or do not qualify for LIEAP. To apply, call the Human Resource Council at 728-3710 or walk in during business hours.

Missoula Electric Cooperative
Furloughed employees should contact billing department at 541-4433 to discuss payment options.

Missoula Water
Offers a monthly credit to LIEAP-eligible households. Complete a request form at the Human Resource Council, 1801 S. Higgins Ave.

Salvation Army Winter Shelter Program
Helps with rent for individuals and families who are at risk of being evicted. Call 549-0710 to make an appointment.

Grocery assistance

Those needing assistance with grocery costs during the shutdown can access the following programs and services:

Missoula Food Bank
No criteria or questions. Those in need of food should go to 1720 Wyoming St.

WIC
Call 258-4740 and state that you are furloughed employee; month by month eligibility; based on family income.

SNAP
Provides supplemental food assistance to individuals and families with qualifying incomes.

Other assistance

Partnership Health Center
Provides integrated primary care health services to the public including medical and dental care, behavioral health counseling, pharmacy and a lab. Offers a sliding fee scale for those with and without insurance.

Human Resource Council/2-1-1
Provides general information and resources for those affected by the shutdown online at http://211.org/services/govshutdown.

Is your organization offering a service or other benefit to furloughed workers? Let us know by filling out the Community Services for Furloughed Workers form.

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How can Missoula County help you?

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PHOTO: Andrew Kemmis Photography

Though our operations can affect your day-to-day life, navigating county government can be confusing. After considering the input you provided through our online survey, we’ve made a few changes to our website that will help connect you to the information and services you need.

First, we streamlined our Help page to more clearly direct you to useful information. From here, you can search the site, browse frequently asked questions, locate a county building and find department contact info, among other things.

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Second, we launched a customer service request form you can use when the other options come up empty. After completing a short questionnaire and providing any additional details, your request will be forwarded to the appropriate department and reviewed within three business days. Easy peasy!

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Do you have any other suggestions on how we can better serve you? Feel free to comment below or send an email to communications@missoulacounty.us.

We look forward to helping you!

New Seeley ice rink, other county parks benefit from Matching Grants Program

ice rink 2
PHOTO: Betty Vanderwielen, Seeley-Swan Pathfinder

On the otherwise sleepy Saturday between Christmas and New Year’s, around 200 kiddos and their families laced up skates and took to the ice – slipping, falling and, eventually, gliding – during the grand opening of a new open-air rink in Seeley Lake.

The event served as the community’s introduction to the ice rink, which has been in the works for about a year. Located at the elementary school’s athletic fields, it’ll provide a new way for families and others to get out and about during long Montana winters.

“Kids here don’t have as much opportunity to be active during the winter months,” says Garry Swain, a board member of the Regional Outdoor Center for Kinetic Sports (ROCKS), which spearheaded the project. “This gives them another outlet to get down there and just have a ball, for free.”

The rink will be open during daylight hours, with a crew of volunteers committed to keeping the ice clear and flooding the rink to smooth it over whenever necessary. ROCKS also keeps about 40 pairs of skates in various sizes at the rink, free for anyone to borrow.

The organization, which provided $7,000 in seed money to kick-start the project, was able to put the finishing touches on the rink, including purchasing a snow blower to help clear the ice, thanks to a $10,000 matching grant awarded by the Missoula County Parks and Trails Advisory Board.

ice rink 3
PHOTO: Betty Vanderwielen, Seeley-Swan Pathfinder

The Parks and Trails Matching Grants Program leverages partnerships with local nonprofits and community groups to maintain county parks and other public recreation areas. In these partnerships, the Parks and Trails Advisory Board provides planning assistance and funding, while the partner organization matches those funds through a combination of project expenses, in-kind donations and volunteer service hours.

Four other grants, which range from $1,500 to $12,000, will help fund critical capital and maintenance projects to improve parks, trails and recreation areas  in 2019:

  • $1,500 to perform maintenance on the playground and double tennis courts located in Seeley Lake Community Park (Sponsoring organization: Seeley Lake Elementary School District No. 34)
  • $12,000 to install wayfinding markers, benches and/or tables, and finance placement of portalets along the Bitterroot Trail (Bitterroot Trail Preservation Alliance)
  • $4,500 to apply weed and feed lawn treatments and install an irrigation system for the play area east of the barn at Hellgate Lions Park in Bonner (Friends of 2 Rivers)
  • $8,800 for general maintenance of East Missoula Lions Park (East Missoula Lions Club)

“Awarding the matching grants is always an exciting time of year, because we get to see what types of recreation projects county residents are prioritizing,” said Parks and Trails Coordinator John Stegmaier. “It is truly remarkable what our community partners are able to achieve through the use of these matching funds.”

Is there a park or other public recreation site in your area in need of a little TLC? The Parks and Trails Matching Grant Program could help! Applications typically become available in late August, with a mid-October deadline. You can find more details on the ins and outs of applying on the Parks and Trails website. (A quick note: Only sites outside the City of Missoula are eligible for these grants.)

ice rink 1
PHOTO: Betty Vanderwielen, Seeley-Swan Pathfinder

 

Missoula County names public hearing room after Salish leader Sophie Moiese

Bitterroot sign

In a gesture that Commissioner Dave Strohmaier estimates came “about 150 years late,” Missoula County this week dedicated its public hearing room in the courthouse in honor of Sophie Moiese (1864-1960), one of the most highly respected Salish cultural leaders of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Sophie Moiese
Sophie Moiese

Sophie Moise Room sign

Moiese, or Č̓ɫx͏ʷm̓x͏ʷm̓šn̓á in Salish, was considered an expert in virtually every aspect of traditional tribal life, from song, dance and material culture to the Salish spiritual and material relationship with plants, according to a biography provided by the Séliš-Qlispé Culture Committee. She taught countless young Salish people about the gathering, preparation, storage and use of the tribe’s traditional food and medicines. For many years, she led the springtime bitterroot ceremony, when the Salish welcomed the return of the bitterroot flower, the first major food of the year in the old way of life.

As the Missoula Valley was perhaps the single most abundant bitterroot grounds throughout the tribe’s vast aboriginal territories, it’s fitting that
a room in the courthouse that now inhabits it be named for Moiese.

On Monday, members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council joined the Missoula Board of County Commissioners to do just that during a ceremony that featured a blessing and remarks from Tony Incashola, director of the  Séliš-Qlispé Culture Committee, an honor song performed by tribal drum group Yamncut and a proclamation from the county commissioners.

WATCH VIDEO

In his remarks, Incashola emphasized the importance of honoring the people who inhabited – and cared for – the land that is now Missoula County.

Tony Incashola
Tony Incashola

“We need to try to understand what (the land) looked like, what it  was like here, thousands of years ago, as our ancestors utilized, lived in the area” Incashola said. “And it was people like Sophie Moiese who took care of it, who utilized it, who respected it, so she could pass it down … to the next generation. And it’s people like her, and other Natives, who have made that possible for us to exist here today.”

In addition to her botanical expertise, Moiese also passed on to the younger generations her extensive knowledge of tribal history. She often carried a buckskin string with knots in it, known as a memory string (ɫsispiʔ nɫqʷlqʷelstn), which was the traditional way of ensuring the accurate transmission of oral history. She often recounted the painful story of the forced removal of the Salish from the Bitterroot Valley in 1891, when she was 27. She especially recalled the elder women weeping as soldiers pushed the people north to the Flathead Reservation.

The connection to Moiese, and to the history she helped keep alive, remains strong today. When Incashola asked those attendance how many were direct descendants of her, more than a dozen people raised their hands.

“This is a great day not only for her family, but for the tribes, the county, Native and non-Native people,” he said. “It’s a day that we’re attempting to bridge some of those gaps that have existed for hundreds of years.”

Moiese proclamation

 

 

Drop your ballot off, get an ‘I Voted’ sticker without leaving your car

Drive-thru ballot drop-off

Want to cast your ballot without even leaving your car? Starting tomorrow, you can!

Absentee voters in Missoula County can take advantage of the drive-thru ballot drop-off at the Missoula County Fairgrounds, which opens Thursday, Nov. 1.

Hours for the drop-off are:

  • Thursday and Friday, Nov. 1-2: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 3: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Monday, Nov. 5: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 6 (Election Day): 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

To access the drop-off, use the west entrance on South Avenue, near the intersection with Oxford Street. (The east South Avenue entrance, which was used in previous years, is closed due to construction.) An additional drive-thru, which will be accessible through the entrance on Russell Street near the intersection with Fairview Avenue, will be open on Election Day only. Check out the map above detailing the routes.

In addition to convenience, voters who use the drive-thru ballot drop-off will receive a coveted “I Voted” sticker that many absentee voters often go without. I voted

To better serve Missoula County voters, the Elections Center also will offer extended and weekend hours through Election Day. The office is now open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 3.

Do you still need to register to vote? Change your address? Request an absentee ballot? Don’t wait until Election Day — please let us help you with your election-related needs as soon as possible! Voters who wait until Election Day will likely experience long wait times. We know many people can’t make it to the center before Nov. 6 due to work and other obligations, so if you can, make it a priority!

In addition to voter registration, Elections Center staff can help with all voter services, including signing up for an absentee ballot, address changes, retrieving undeliverable ballots and issuing replacement ballots.

Voters can check their registration status and polling place location at www.MyVoterPageMT.com.

Need more information? Feel free to call the Elections Center at 406-258-4751, email electioninfo@missoulacounty.us or visit www.missoulavotes.com.

Missoula County Elections FAQ

Vote

With Election Day one week from now, the Elections Center and other Missoula County staff are getting lots of questions from voters. Though some answers may depend on a voter’s particular circumstances, here are responses to a few commonly asked questions. 

What should I do with my absentee ballot application? Can I drop it off at the courthouse still?

At this point, voters should bring their absentee ballot application to the Elections Center at the Fairgrounds to ensure they get their ballot. The Elections Center is located in Building 15, and drivers should enter through the Russell Street entrance or the west entrance on South Avenue (the east entrance on South is closed due to construction).

How frequently are you mailing out ballots for those with new absentee requests?

The Elections Center mails out absentee ballots every day. However, starting Wednesday, Oct. 31, they are strongly encouraging voters to come to the Fairgrounds to pick up their ballots.

What is the last day for voters to get their ballots in the mail to ensure they’re counted on Election Day?

The Secretary of State’s office recommends allowing a week for mailing to the Elections Office. The Missoula County Elections Center recommends that voters sending in their ballots from Missoula put them in the mail, with sufficient postage (two Forever stamps) by Thursday, Nov. 1. Absentee ballots must be RECEIVED at the Elections Center by 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6. If your ballot is merely postmarked by then, it won’t be counted!

You can also drop off your ballot at the Elections Center, at the Courthouse and at the drive-thru ballot drop-off at the Fairgrounds. Hours for the drive-thru are:

  • 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Nov. 1 and 2, and Monday, Nov. 5
  • 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3.
  • 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6, Election Day

I see the Elections Center is now open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Friday and open Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Is the late registration cutoff still noon on Monday? What, if any, services do you offer after noon on Nov. 5?

The cutoff for late registration on Monday, Nov. 5, is noon, but same-day voter registration will be available from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6. After noon on Nov. 5, the Elections Center will offer ballot drive-thru drop-off and will also help people find their polling place.

I’ve signed my spouse’s envelope. Can I cross out the incorrect signature and sign the correct ballot?

Yes. The ballot will be processed with the corrected signature.

The outer envelope is ripped and/or reopened. If the bar code and ballot number are still legible, can the Elections Center process it?

Yes, just use tape to “reseal” the envelope.

Will there be an Elections Office presence at the Courthouse on Election Day?

No, all services will be at the Election Center at the Fairgrounds. The Elections Center will have runners come by at 8 p.m. to pick up ballots from the courthouse.

Don’t see an answer to your question? Post it in the comments and we’ll get you an answer as soon as possible!

Missoula Votes Clear Background

With third parties bombarding voters’ mailboxes with conflicting information this election cycle, here are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • The only source for accurate information regarding the status of a voter’s absentee ballot is www.myvoterpagemt.com.

 

  • The following polling places have been relocated for this election:Hellgate Elementary School: Voters report to Montana Technology & Development Center, 5785 W. Broadway

    Cold Springs Elementary School: Voters report to Chief Charlo Elementary School, 5600 Longview Drive

    Meadow Hill Middle School: Voters report to Chief Charlo Elementary School, 5600 Longview Drive

    Hawthorne Elementary School: Voters report to Orchard Homes Country Life Club, 2537 S. Third St. W.

 

  • Your best source for up-to-date information will always be the Missoula County Elections Office. You can follow them on Facebook @MissoulaCountyElections, visit their website at www.missoulavotes.com or call them at 406-258-4751.

Hate the Missoula County website? Help us make it better!

Website screenshot

Have you ever spent an hour or two you’ll never get back trying to find information on our website, which may or may not have ended with you throwing your hands up in frustration?

We know. Well, anecdotally, anyway.

Now, we want to figure out and quantify exactly what information you need and how we can help you find it more easily. You can let us know by taking a short survey (five to 10 minutes, tops), which is online at http://bit.ly/MCWebsiteSurvey. The 11-question survey asks for feedback on your experience using the website, including what info you’re typically looking for, how easy it is to find and understand that information, how easy it is to a submit a service request or concern, etc.

The survey will be open through Monday, Nov. 12. Once we’ve  collected and analyzed the responses, we’ll use it to remap and reorganize the information on our current website, as well as to help us develop a user-friendly customer service tool. We’ll also take the feedback into account when redesigning the site, though that’s not slated to happen until late next year.

When you take the survey, don’t be afraid to be brutally honest — we can take it, we promise. As a local government funded by taxpayers, we work for you, and we want to do so as efficiently as we can. Thanks in advance for helping us do that.