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Boozman Joins Effort Pushing for Financial Security for Rural Communities in Wake of Coronavirus

Written by Press Release

April 21, 2020

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) joined a bipartisan group of senators to urge Congress to provide financial certainty for the long-term funding needs of essential services in rural communities in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

In a letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Boozman and 25 of his colleagues 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 senators wrote. “With inadequate funding and now additional demands on their resources, rural communities and counties are at the breaking point.” 

SRS was enacted in 2000 to financially assist counties with public, tax-exempt forestlands. Boozman has supported efforts to give the program a more permanent role in assisting rural counties with large tracts of federal lands.

The letter was authored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and James Risch (R-ID).

Along with Boozman, it was also signed by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Steve Daines (R-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jon Tester (D-MT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tim Scott (R-SC), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA).         

Read the full letter below: 

Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer: 

Following up on the State, County and Locality Stabilization Fund passed as part of the CARES Act in late March 2020, we believe there is an opportunity to further stabilize local government funding in rural counties throughout America. We respectfully request 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. With inadequate funding and now additional demands on their resources, rural communities and counties are at the breaking point.  

Despite being small, rural, and generally relatively remote, county governments that rely on SRS and PILT are responding to the same national health crisis facing larger cities and urban areas. Extending these two programs has wide, bipartisan support, which was on display as recently as 2019, when the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a legislative hearing on PILT and SRS, and received testimony on legislation that would permanently extend SRS and build on the historic link between timber receipts and county payments.   

In order to assist these rural counties’ response to the current public health crisis, as well as to invest in infrastructure, schools, and law enforcement, Congress must consider long-term solutions for PILT and SRS as soon as possible to ensure viability for these programs for generations to come.  

Sincerely,

Original article source: https://www.boozman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2020/4/boozman-joins-effort-pushing-for-financial-security-for-rural-communities-in-wake-of-coronavirus | Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council

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