Friday, March 27, 2015

House passes extension of Secure Rural Schools program to help struggling rural timber counties

On Thursday the House passed bipartisan legislation that involves extending the Secure Rural Schools program, reports Agri-Pulse, a Washington newsletter. The program, which expired in September 2014, "provides assistance for schools, law enforcement and infrastructure in rural forested communities that lack a tax base to adequately fund such activities." The program awarded about $270 million to 729 counties in 2014, but the $1.1 trillion spending bill that passed in December did not include funds for the program.

"The extension was included in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 2), which contains reforms for how doctors are paid under Medicare and reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program," Agri-Pulse writes. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) told lawmakers, “What we're doing today is providing a lifeline to our schoolchildren in classrooms in rural counties that are forested under federal land and making sure law enforcement have the resources they need. This will even protect some counties [in Oregon] from going bankrupt because of lack of management and activity on our federal lands."

Agri-Pulse writes, "The two-year extension now goes to the Senate. The provision falls under forest reform policy approved twice by the House last year, but the Senate never voted on a reform plan of its own." (Read more) (Daily Yonder map: Estimated payments that counties received from the Secure Rural Schools program in FY 2013. For an interactive version, click here)

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