April 27, 2020

Wyden Reiterates Call for Financial Security for Rural Communities, as COVID-19 Relief Funds and Guidance Fall Short

Renewed call comes in wake of new, inadequate administration guidance on Coronavirus Relief Fund for rural communities

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today again called on Congressional leadership to provide much-needed financial certainty for rural communities during the COVID-19 crisis to ensure they have long-term funding needed for essential services. 

Wyden's renewed call follows the release of the Trump administration's Coronavirus Relief Fund guidance for state, territorial, local and tribal governments. The guidance falls dangerously short in making sure rural communities have the resources they need to keep families safe and their economies going.

"For years rural counties have teetered on the edge of the financial cliff. Add a global pandemic, and that cliff has only gotten steeper and steeper. Rural communities desperately need more support," Wyden said. "The Secure Rural Schools and PILT programs are already on the books and proven to get counties the resources they need. These programs just need long-term funding and certainty. This issue has long been considered by the Senate, my legislation has been debated, and now it's time for Congress to act and include it in the next COVID-19 relief package." 

Wyden, along with U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and James Risch, R-Idaho, recently led a bipartisan group of 23 other senators on a letter calling for the Senate to provide “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 Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS)—originally co-authored by Wyden and Senator Larry Craig—was enacted in 2000 to financially assist counties with public, tax-exempt forestlands. Wyden, Crapo, Merkley and Risch have worked to give SRS a more permanent role in assisting rural counties with large tracts of federal lands. Most recently, in May 2019 they reintroduced their bill to make the SRS program permanent by creating an endowment fund to provide stable, increasing and reliable funding for county services. In November 2019, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee also 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.