Washington DC – Today, Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden introduced an amendment to the Farm Bill that would require the Department of the Interior to pay 18 Oregon timber counties nearly $2 million in overdue Secure Rural Schools payments within seven days of passage of the Farm Bill.
“The people who live in Oregon’s rural timber counties are already looking at open jail cell doors and closed library doors,” said Merkley. “This accounting problem at the BLM couldn’t have come at a worse time. They have to get the overdue funding to our counties immediately so a bad situation doesn’t get worse.”
“This isn’t exactly rocket science. BLM knows how much money it owes Oregon counties and it’s long past time for the agency to settle up,” Wyden said. “Oregon’s rural communities are deciding how many sheriff’s deputies are on the road and how many teachers are in the classroom. They need to know they can count on the federal government to honor its commitments.”
Earlier this year, the Bureau of Land Management reduced the Secure Rural Schools funding paid to counties by 10% in anticipation of automatic spending cuts, called sequestration. However, the sequester was only a 5.1% cut, and counties have been waiting for months for the Department of the Interior to pay out the remainder that counties are owed. This amendment by Senators Merkley and Wyden would require the Department of the Interior to release the remaining funding to Oregon counties within seven days of passage so that cash-strapped counties can provide crucial public safety and public service resources to their communities.
In March 2013, Senator Merkley sent a letter to the Department of the Interior asking them to distribute full funding to the 18 O&C counties. This amendment would require the Department of the Interior to release the approximate $2 million in funding immediately.