Wednesday, April 19, 2023

La Grande Observer

WASHINGTON – Oregon Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have announced Wednesday, April 19, that several counties in Oregon, including Union County will receive over $45 million in funding under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.

According to a press release from the senators, the money will go toward a variety of projects, including school and road maintenance, youth job training, wildfire prevention, watershed restoration and habitat conservation.

Union County will receive $698,635. Other Eastern Oregon counties in line to receive funding include Baker ($841,859), Grant ($3.55 million), Harney ($1.34 million), Malheur ($726), Morrow ($175,726), Umatilla ($95,182) and Wallowa ($1.04 million).

Union County Commissioner Paul Anderes said about 75% of the county’s share of the funding will be spent for road projects. The remainder of the funding will go to public schools in the county.

Anderes said local officials learned about a year ago that Union County would be be receiving the SRS funding. 

Wyden, who co-wrote the original SRS law in 2000, expressed his satisfaction that the law is still benefitting rural communities across America, with Oregon receiving the highest amount of funding. He noted that the federal investment in counties across the state is a lifeline for Oregonians who are working towards making their communities safer and better.

Merkley emphasized the importance of the payments for rural communities, as they help to provide essential services such as schools, infrastructure, and public safety. He pledged to continue fighting to ensure that the federal government honors its promises to rural Oregon.

The $228 million provided by the SRS program will benefit more than 700 counties across the United States by providing crucial funding for schools, roads, and other municipal services. The funds are generated through multi-use activities on U.S. Forest Service lands, such as grazing, timber production and special use permits.