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DeFazio Calls for Financial Security for Rural Communities During COVID-19 Pandemic

Apr 29, 2020
Press Release

Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04) today led a bipartisan group of 63 other lawmakers on a letter calling for Congress to finally provide much-needed financial certainty during the COVID-19 crisis for rural communities to ensure long-term funding needed for essential services.

In a letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, DeFazio pushed for, “a long-term solution for the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) and Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) programs at the next possible opportunity.” 

“The stop and start authorizations and payments under SRS and PILT have wreaked havoc on rural America for decades, and now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the budgets of these rural counties are decimated. These two programs fund roads, schools, law enforcement, and essential county services, such as public health programs,” the lawmakers wrote. “With inadequate funding and now additional demands on their resources, rural communities and counties are at the breaking point.”

“Sixty-two percent of the nation’s counties contain untaxable federal public lands. The Payments In Lieu of Taxes and Secure Rural Schools programs are economic drivers and support first responders, public health professionals, law enforcement officials and others addressing COVID-19,” said National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase. “We thank Representative DeFazio for leading the charge for long-term certainty for these crucial programs. We urge Congress to pass permanent funding for PILT and SRS in the next relief package to help public lands and forest counties mitigate the coronavirus public health and economic crises.”

The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) was enacted in 2000 to financially assist timber-dependent counties after changes in federal timber policy dramatically reduced timber receipts to rural communities across the United States. DeFazio has repeatedly pushed to make the program permanent.

SRS has been a critical lifeline to over 775 counties in more than 40 states by helping fund over 4,400 schools, road maintenance, law enforcement, and search and rescue operations on federal lands. Historically, the federal government shared with county governments 25 percent of timber sales from federal forestlands and 50 percent of revenues from certain lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. 

A copy of the letter is available here.