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Senators urge feds to rush rural schools payments


Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and James Risch, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Wednesday urged federal officials to deliver Secure Rural Schools payments as quickly as possible in the aftermath of the government shutdown.

In their bipartisan letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Acting Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt, the senators said rural residents in their states are concerned about shutdown-related delays slowing the disbursement of vital SRS support for their schools, roads and public safety.

“With thousands of workers having been furloughed in rural communities across the country and with the public having lost access to many of their public lands, the government shutdown had dire consequences in many rural areas,” they wrote. “Given these concerns, please make every effort to ensure your agencies disperse SRS payments in a timely manner.”

More than 700 counties and 4,400 school districts in more than 40 states rely on SRS payments to fund schools and essential services like roads and public safety. The fiscal year 2018 Omnibus spending bill included a two-year reauthorization for SRS, which retroactively covered fiscal year 2017 and fiscal year 2018. Under current law, fiscal year 2018 funds are to be dispersed as soon as possible after the Sept. 30, 2018 close of fiscal year 2018.

The SRS program continues to be a critical safety net for forest counties as lawmakers work to establish a permanent county payments solution.

A copy of their letter is available here.

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