AARP’s new Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) Scorecard finds that more than three years after the COVID-19 pandemic began, care provided in the United States for older adults and people with disabilities is painfully inadequate. The report finds that major gaps persist in every state, including Montana, especially related to Safety & Quality; Choice of Setting & Provider; and Affordability & Access.

 Ranking #33 in the country, Montana has made some progress to improve care options for older adults, including “Assisted Living Supply” meaning assisted living and residential care units per 1,000 population (ages 75+). However, the report shows there is still much more to be done to keep up with the rapidly changing needs of an aging population. Montana dropped six slots since the last score card was issued in 2021, Montana was ranked #27 in the country.

 “The pandemic reinforced the need to strengthen long-term care for loved ones across the country, including in Montana,” said Mike Batista AARP Montana Director of Government Affairs. “AARP’s Scorecard shows that there are many roads to meet the needs of all Montanans who deserve the very best care, including the 112,000 family caregivers in our state. It’s time to accelerate our efforts.”

 Additional key findings from the report include:

 Family Caregiving

* Only six states, including Montana, provide a tax credit for family caregivers’ out-of-pocket expenses. Oklahoma enacted a caregiver tax credit bill in June, after data for the Scorecard was collected. Family caregivers on average spend $7,242 per year on out-of-pocket costs.

 Home Based Services

* There has been a surge in older adults receiving long-term care at home, rather than in nursing homes and other institutions. For the first time, more than half (53%) of Medicaid LTSS spending for older people and adults with physical disabilities went to Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS). This is up from 37% in 2009. HCBS includes support for home health care aides, respite services, assistive technology and home modifications and other services.

o The average annual per person cost of home care in 2021 was $42,000.

o Montana ranked near the bottom at #42 for “Home Care Cost” meaning the median annual home care private pay cost as a percentage of median household income, (ages 65+). 

* Many states have large numbers of people with low care needs living in nursing homes, indicating a lack of HCBS access and services. More than 20% of residents in Montana have residents with low needs, compared to 9% nationally.  

Nursing Homes and Institutional Care

* A major workforce crisis exists in nursing home care. Across all states, wages for direct care workers are lower than wages for comparable occupations, with shortfalls ranging from $1.56 to $5.03 per hour. In Montana, wages are $2.28 lower than other entry level jobs.

o Nationally, more than half of nursing staff in nursing homes leave their job within a year (53.9% turnover rate). In Montana, the rate is above the average, at 63.2%, with Montana, Vermont, and New Mexico experiencing the highest averages in the nation in staffing turnover.

o Staffing disparities are a significant challenge. Residents of nursing homes with high admissions of Black residents receive almost 200 fewer hours of care per year compared to residents of nursing homes with high admissions of white residents.  

* Nationally, only 22% of nursing home residents live in a facility with a 5-star rating; about 33.7% of Montana residents live in a 5-star facility. Gaps in workforce and equity result in persistent problems in care. For instance, about 10% of nursing home residents nationwide experienced a pressure sore. Pressure sores can be life-threatening as they can lead to bone or joint infections, cancer, and sepsis. 

“COVID-19 tested our long-term care systems, and they failed. Now is the time to take the lessons we’ve learned to fix them, for the sake of saving lives,” said Susan Reinhard, Senior Vice President, AARP Public Policy Institute. “AARP’s LTSS Scorecard shows some progress and innovation, but there’s still a long way to go before we have systems that allow people to age well and independently for as long as possible and support the nation’s 48 million family caregivers. It’s also clear some emerging issues deserve more attention – from whether nursing homes are prepared to confront natural disasters, to whether they have plans in place to maintain and grow their workforces.”

A group of 18 state attorneys general and two separate organizations recently filed amicus briefs in support of Montana’s law banning TikTok from operating in the state. The law was written  by Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen following documented concerns over the app’s  data-harvesting and access to that data granted to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials.

The new law requires TikTok to stop operating in Montana and prohibits mobile application stores from making TikTok available starting on January 1, 2024. Shortly after Governor Greg Gianforte signed SB 419 into law, the company and a group of users it funded sued and requested a preliminary injunction. The three groups  joined Attorney General Knudsen in urging the court to deny the plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction due to the adverse impact on citizens’ privacy and data security.

The coalition of 18 states argues that SB 419 falls within the States’ historic police powers under the principle of federalism that “each State may make its own reasoned judgment about what conduct is permitted or proscribed within its borders,” and by banning TikTok’s operation in the state, Montana is protecting its citizens’ privacy from TikTok and the threat of the CCP’s data-harvesting practices.

“SB 419 is justified, and Plaintiffs’ motions for a preliminary injunction should be denied, because TikTok intentionally engages in deceptive business practices which induce individuals to share sensitive personal information that can be easily accessed by the Chinese Communist Party and because TikTok’s platform harms children in Montana and Amici States. Federal law does not prohibit the States from protecting their citizens from such conduct,” the attorneys general wrote in the brief. “The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the political party with unchallenged control of the government of the People’s Republic of China, exercises significant influence over ByteDance. Allowing TikTok to operate in Montana without severing its ties to the CCP exposes Montanan consumers to the risk of the CCP accessing and exploiting their data.”

In FY 2022-23, MetraPark events contributed $110,700,000 to the local community, and $177 million globally, according to a report presented to the Yellowstone County Commissioners by Michael Mayott, Chairman of the Metra Park Advisory Board.

Given that MetraPark receives a tax funded subsidy of $3,672,600 annually, the proceeds generated is a return of $3 for every $1 subsidy, said Mayott.

Over the past year MetraPark hosted 388 events with the most events – 60 – occurring in April.

Total revenue for Metra Park was $9,916,000, with total expenses of $8,639,000.

Top five events during the year were:

PBR, $219,274;

Kane Brown concert, $175,904;

Lil Wayne concert, $102,152;

NILE Livestock Show, $93,926;

Ian Munsick, $92,622.

By Shirleen Guerra, The Center Square

The 2023 fiscal year is on track to average the highest number of individuals on food stamps in the U.S. since 2016.

There were 42,329,101 on food assistance on average each month on through the first nine months of the fiscal year, as of June 2023, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The fiscal year is completed at the end of September.

That’s the most people on food assistance since the fiscal year 2016 monthly average of 44,219,363.

The fiscal year 2023 overall cost of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, will be the first time in two years that emergency pandemic relief was not included the full year. Most states dropped the extra COVID-19 stipend by March 2023.

In 2016, the yearly cost of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was $66.5 billion, or $84.2 billion when adjusted for inflation.

Through the first three quarters of fiscal year 2023, the costs are $85.1 billion, which projects to $113.5 billion for the full year.  In fiscal year 2022, the SNAP program cost almost $114 billion.


McCall Development Inc/ McCall Development, 1817 Annafeld Pkwy W, Com New Townhome Shell, $236,412

GTP Aquisition Partners II LLC C/O Property Tax De, 1204 W Wicks Ln, Com Remodel, $20,000

Landen Bahl, 1595 Grand Ave, Com Remodel – Change In Use


Bar A 7 LLC/ Schenk Construction Inc. 19 N 22nd St, Com Remodel – Change In Use, $115,000

McCall Properties LLC, 1625 Annafeld Pkwy E, Com Remodel – Change In Use, $35,00 Neumann, Gerald A & Ardis M/ YC Contractors, 321 S 24th St W, Demolition Permit Commercial $45,000.00

Covert Company LLC/ Commercial Marketing Specialties, Inc., 1320 Main St, Demolition Permit, $27,000


McCall Development Inc/ McCall Development, 6152 Rosemary Rd, Res New Accessory Structure, $42,240

McCall Development Inc/ McCall Development, 6140 Rosemary Rd, Res New Accessory Structure $42,240

South Pine Design/ South Pine Design, 5338 N Iron Mountain Rd, Res New Single Family, $450,000

Larsen, Arion & Dianna, 3739 Colton Blvd, Res New Single Family, $575,000

McCall Development Inc/ McCall Development, 1933 Annas Garden Ln, Res New Single Family, $325,017

McCall Development Inc McCall Development, 6183 Eva Marie Ln, Res New Single Family $147,460

McCall Development Inc/ McCall Development, 6171 Eva Marie Ln, Res New Single Family, $147,453

CB Built, LLC/ CB Built LLC, 4634 Talking Tree Dr, Res New Two Family, $500,990.

By Brett Rowland, The Center Square

The IRS announced new enforcement initiatives  to crack down on 1,600 millionaires and 75 large companies it said owe hundreds of millions in unpaid taxes.  IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel said the agency will use Inflation Reduction Act funding to focus on high-income earners, partnerships, large corporations and promoters. He said the IRS won’t increase audit rates for those earning less than $400,000. “This new compliance push makes good on the promise of the Inflation Reduction Act to ensure the IRS holds our wealthiest filers accountable to pay the full amount of what they owe,” Werfel said in a statement.

The IRS will prioritize high-income cases. The High Wealth, High Balance Due Taxpayer Field Initiative will take aim at taxpayers with total positive income above $1 million who have more than $250,000 in recognized tax debt. The agency also will have dozens of revenue officers focusing on these high-end collection cases in fiscal year 2024 and the agency is working to expand that effort by contacting about 1,600 taxpayers who owe hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes, according to the agency. 

The IRS further plans to expand a pilot program that uses artificial intelligence to take a closer look at the 75 largest partnerships in the U.S. That is expected to start by the end of the month. On average, such partnerships have more than $10 billion in assets.

Small business owners have been concerned about excessive credit card processing fees for years but have had no possible course of action until now. The Credit Card Competition Act of 2023 (S. 1838 / H.R. 3881) has been introduced in both chambers of Congress, and NFIB (National Federation of Independent Businesses) released a new video featuring small business owners explaining the impact its passage would have on their Main Street businesses if passed into law.

The Credit Card Competition Act of 2023 seeks to ensure competition in the credit card processing market by allowing small businesses the freedom to choose between multiple credit card networks. Without this legislation, businesses everywhere are subjected to ever-rising processing fees – known as swipe fees – set by large credit card companies in a closed market, free from competition.

“The Credit Card Competition Act of 2023, I think, would be very beneficial to our business,” said Renea Jones, a small business owner from Tennessee. “We just recently started accepting credit cards, and we have noticed that that ‘swipe fee’ has been very expensive for us.”

According to a recent NFIB member ballot, 92% of small business owners believe that businesses should have the right to choose between multiple credit card processing networks. This legislation would help preserve their freedom of choice by injecting much-needed competition into the credit card processing market, allowing small business owners to choose the option that is best for their business.

“Just like we have to compete for clients and for the business that we want to be engaged in, the credit card companies should absolutely not have a monopoly on the business owners that are able to take advantage of their services,” said Michelle Smith, a small business owner from Florida.

Credit card swipe fees have more than doubled since 2012. As small business owner David Henrich from Minnesota explains, there is not a lot that small business owners can do to maintain prices with this added fee.

“I think one thing people forget about all these costs and fees that they think businesses pay is that it’s the consumers who end up paying these fees,” said David. “At the end of the day, if we can reduce those fees, we can stabilize costs.”

By Bethany Blankley, The Center Square

U.S. petroleum products exports set a new record in the first half of 2023, according to newly released U.S. Energy Information Association data. 

U.S. exports of petroleum products grew 2% to nearly 6 million barrels per day (b/d) in the first half of 2023 (1H23) compared to the same period in 2022, according to the EIA. 

In the first half of 2022, the US became the world’s largest liquified natural gas (LNG) exporter, because European countries experienced energy shortages from failed “green energy” policies and reduced reliance on Russian oil, according to energy experts. The U.S., led by Texas, gave European countries a “lifeline,” Texans for Natural Gas explained. 

The increase in petroleum products exports was the greatest volume of first-half-of-the-year exports the EIA has ever reported since it began publishing its Petroleum Supply Monthly report in 1981. Exports of propane and other hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGLs) drove the increase, it says. 

Exports of other major petroleum products like motor gasoline, distillate fuel oil, and jet fuel all decreased compared to the same time period last year. Growth in this area was less than during the same time period last year because exports in 1H22 skyrocketed to meet increased demand in Europe. 

The U.S. was also the top exporter of liquified natural gas in the first half of 2023, again led by Gulf states.

U.S. exports of crude oil continued to increase in the first half of this year, rising to 4 million b/d—19% higher than the first half of last year, the EIA notes. 

U.S. propane exports in 1H23 averaged 1.5 million b/d in 1H23, an 8% increase (119,000 b/d) from 1H22, according to the EIA data. Propane was the most-exported U.S. petroleum product in 1H23, continuing a trend that began in 2020, it notes. Propane exports “are the primary driver of overall higher U.S. petroleum product exports so far this year,” EIA says. Other HGL exports were also a significant driver of 1H23 export growth, increasing by 9% (85,000 b/d) compared to 1H22.

While propane exports to European and Central and South American countries decreased in 1H23 compared to 1H22, exports to Asian countries increased rapidly, according to the report. Nearly 60% of U.S. propane exports went to Asia in 1H23, mostly to Japan, China, and South Korea, the EIA states.

Total distillate exports to Europe increased in 1H23 compared to 1H22 after the EU imposed a ban on all Russian petroleum products at the beginning of 2023. U.S. distillate fuel oil exports to European countries averaged 138,000 b/d in 1H23 compared to 56,000 b/d in 1H22, with the UK and the Netherlands receiving the most.

“The increase in distillate exports to Europe even as exports to other destinations declined partially reflects rerouted trade flows in response to sanctions on petroleum product imports from Russia,” the EIA notes. “Exports to Europe from the United States are replacing distillate supplies that previously came from Russia, which now lack market access in Europe and therefore are being exported to destinations further abroad.”

Ed Longanecker, with Texans for Natural Gas and the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association, told The Center Square that “Texas energy – from our wells in West Texas to our ports along the Gulf of Mexico – enabled America to meet European gas needs in a time of crisis” last year. Texas energy provides energy security to the U.S. and its allies, he and others in the industry maintain. “Without American natural gas, Europe would have been at the mercy of aggressive foreign powers,” he said.

The Center Square

A recent analysis determined the United States sits on a century’s worth of gas supply, but industry experts warn there aren’t enough pipelines to access it.

The report from the Potential Gas Committee, part of the Colorado School of Mines, found that the country had technically recoverable gas resources of 3,353 trillion cubic feet, a 0.5% decrease from its 2020 estimate.

Despite this, however, total future supply has hit the highest level recorded by the committee in 60 years.

Steven Sonnenberg of the Colorado School of Mines noted they have seen a “bit of a plateau in recent years,” but “proved reserves are also increasing,” which represents more drilling activity from companies. It also shows more natural gas is moving from potential underground fields to actual reserves.

The Energy Information Administration tracks proved reserves, which are confirmed gas supplies, while the committee tracks unconfirmed probable resources (like field extensions or new pools in discovered natural gas areas), possible resources (like new natural gas fields), and speculative resources (where new basins might be).

“We’re essentially at all-time highs with both cumulative production, crude production, and these gas resource numbers,” Sonnenberg said.

The U.S. consumes about 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas annually, Sonnenberg noted, which would mean the country has a “100-year resource of natural gas” with its proven and estimated supply.

Natural gas supplies in the Atlantic area, in which Pennsylvania resides, declined by 2.5% to 1,259 Tcf, but remain the most significant part of the country, with 40% of the country’s natural gas supply.

“All of the increases in the Atlantic Area’s assessment since 2016 arose from ongoing evaluation of Appalachian basin shales, predominantly the prolific Marcellus in Pennsylvania and West Virginia,” the committee’s report noted.

Pennsylvania in recent years has seen record revenues from its impact fee, which distributes money to local governments where natural gas production occurs. The Independent Fiscal Office, however, expects those payouts to decline.

Production growth has also stalled, which industry advocates argue is a result of pipeline capacity limits and permitting delays, while environmental groups charge that natural gas production has permanently plateaued.

The committee acknowledges that without more pipelines, the gas supply will sit unused.

Directed by the federal government to do so, The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) has developed a draft “Carbon Reduction Strategy (CRS),” which it announced in a press release on September 20, was available for public review and comment until September 27.

The National Carbon Reduction Program (CRP) was signed into law as part of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). It provides funding to states if they develop and promote projects aimed at reducing carbon emissions from vehicles and other transportation sources as determined by the Federal Highway Administration which oversees MDT. Under the law, each state must develop guidelines and regulations in consultation with local Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs).

MPOs are organizations required by the federal government, also under the auspices of the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), for communities reaching certain population levels in order for a community to get federal municipal planning & development funds, and to be eligible for transportation funds. Under a “Memorandum of Agreement for Continuing Transportation Planning in the Billings Urbanized Area” the function of an MPO is overseen by the MDT and the FHA.

One of the requirements of an MPO is to establish a city/ county Planning Board comprised of local citizens, which is administered by the city planning staff. A typical municipal planning department gets more than two-thirds of their funding from FHA.

In Montana, three cities are required to have MPOs – Great Falls, Missoula and Billings. In Billings the MPO is called the Policy Coordinating Committee (PCC). The committee is comprised of a city council representative, a county commissioner, a member of the Planning Board, MDT District Administrator, a representative from the state MDT, and the Division Administrator for FHA.

MDT states in a press release that the Montana CRS “provides a baseline summary of carbon emissions associated with Montana transportation and presents localized strategies. These strategies would be funded by the CRP, and include recommendations for implementation and monitoring efforts. The document is intended to assist transportation officials in making future project and program decisions to reduce carbon emissions.”

As of only September 20, the public was encouraged to view the document and comment on it. The press release said the proposal was available at https:// pubinvolve/crs/ beginning September 13, through Wednesday, September 27, 2023. Comments may be submitted online at or by contacting Vicki Crnich at 406-444-7653 or

The press release said that after considering public comments, a final version of the CRS will be posted to the state website.