WASHINGTON (KTVZ) — Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., along with Reps. Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici and Kurt Schrader said Monday that 31 Oregon counties will receive about $39.3 million in Secure Rural Schools payments for schools, roads, law enforcement and other essential services.
These payments to Oregon counties are the last ones under the SRS program’s current authorization. Wyden, Merkley and Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) are making a bipartisan push to reauthorize the SRS program through September 2022 while also working to pass the Forest Management for Rural Stability Act, which would provide a long-term permanent solution to replace the need to reauthorize SRS every two years for rural counties in Oregon and nationwide.
“For the better part of two decades, SRS payments have maintained an economic lifeline for rural Oregonians counting on quality schools, dependable infrastructure and more in their communities,” said Wyden, who co-authored the original SRS law in 2000 and in the March American Rescue Plan got a new $1 billion-per-year payments program for tribes and for rural counties with large tracts of federal lands. “The ongoing challenge of dealing with COVID-19 and its economic impact makes these current payments more important than ever now, while work continues both on a short-term SRS reauthorization and on a longer-term SRS endowment that gets rural counties once and for all off this roller coaster of uncertainty.”
“Every Oregonian—regardless of what they look like, where they live, or how much money they make—deserves to live in a community that has access to critical services like great schools and road maintenance,” said Merkley. “The Secure Rural Schools program has played a key role in helping us turn that vision into a reality in rural communities throughout Oregon and across America. I’m gratified that this funding is headed to our state to help build on the past success of SRS, and I will continue to fight for a long-term reauthorization of this program to ensure that our families can rely on it throughout our recovery from this pandemic and in the years to come.”
“With the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, SRS payments are more vital to Oregon’s rural counties than ever before,” said Rep. DeFazio. “These payments not only fund our roads, schools, and law enforcement—they support our first responders, public health professionals, and other county services critical to fighting the pandemic. It’s imperative that we reauthorize the SRS program to support the health, safety, and well-being of our rural communities.”
“Our rural communities need support to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and build back better, and the millions of dollars in SRS payments for Oregon’s counties will make a meaningful difference,” Bonamici said. “This funding will help pay for essential services and support the schools, roads, and public services that are so important to rural Oregon. I will continue advocating for more resources to help all of our communities thrive.”
“SRS payments play a crucial role in funding essential services in Oregon’s rural counties and thousands of schools located across the nation,” Schrader said. “I have repeatedly supported extending SRS funding and increasing accountability to ensure the program is benefiting the communities it is designed to help. I am also committed to working with my colleagues to enact a more permanent solution, which must include returning rural Oregon to a model of sustainable timber harvesting, so communities may support themselves, their families and create healthier forests for future generations.”
Since Wyden co-wrote the original SRS program in 2000 with then-Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, SRS has brought about $3.4 billion to Oregon counties.
A breakdown of the $39.3 million for Oregon counties is included in a national breakdown here.