WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) today joined a bipartisan group of her colleagues to ensure counties do not lose out on essential services due to federal land ownership.
The legislation would reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program through September 2022. The SRS program, which helps fund essential services in rural communities that are home to federal land, expired in September 2020. The last payment under the current authorization is scheduled for April 2021, less than two months from now.
“Many rural communities whose tax base is limited due to presence of federal land in West Virginia rely on the SRS program to ensure their education system and essential services receive the necessary funding,” Senator Capito said. “It is important that Congress acts to pass this legislation, especially while these communities are already facing financial hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Along with Senator Capito, co-sponsors of the legislation, which is being led by U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), include Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
The full text of the bill can be found here.
The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act was enacted in 2000 to financially assist counties with public, tax-exempt forestlands.
Critical services at the county level have historically been funded in part with a 25 percent share of timber receipts from federal U.S. Forest Service lands, and a 50 percent share of timber receipts from federal Oregon and California Grant Lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. As those revenues have fallen or fluctuated due to reduced timber harvest and market forces, SRS payments helped bridge the gap to keep rural schools open, provide road maintenance, support search and rescue efforts and other essential county services. Since enacted in 2000, SRS has provided a total of $7 billion in payments to more than 700 counties and 4,400 school districts in more than 40 states to fund schools and essential services like roads and public safety. In recent years, however, Congress has allowed SRS funding to lapse and decrease, creating massive uncertainty for counties as they budget for basic county services.
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