Sens. Cantwell, Murray, Bipartisan Group of Western Senators Press White House to Extend Critical Lifeline Funding in Disaster Aid Request

Rural Communities Need Stable Funding to Keep Schools, Libraries, and Roads Open, Protect their Communities from Crime

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) joined a bipartisan group of Western senators to urge the White House and its Office of Management and Budget to fulfill the federal government’s promise to rural communities by extending a critical lifeline that funds road repairs, schools, and law enforcement in rural communities in any future emergency disaster supplemental funding bill it sends to Congress.

The senators pushed for a two-year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Self-Determination Act (SRS). SRS payments support public schools, public roads, forest health projects, emergency services, and law enforcement in more than 700 counties across the country.

The payments expired last year, leaving counties uncertain as to how to fund these essential services in rural areas.

“We have seen firsthand the hardships rural counties face as a result of SRS authorization lapsing. Without the certainty of SRS payments, schools, libraries, and jails will close…” the senators wrote in a letter to Trump and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. “Roads go unpaved and become unsafe. Mental and physical health services are scaled back or even ended. Fewer and fewer law enforcement officers are forced to patrol larger and larger areas.

“In the interest of working together in a bipartisan way to support local rural communities, we ask that you and Director Mulvaney work with the Congress to include a reauthorization of Secure Rural Schools in any emergency disaster funding legislation,” they wrote.

Counties received their last SRS funds in March 2016. Since the program expired, residents in many of the counties that depend on this funding have had to choose between keeping schools and libraries open or laying off law enforcement.

The lack of certainty about SRS funding comes at a time when rural communities in the West are also being hit by record-breaking fire seasons that have been exacerbated by the federal government’s broken system of wildfire funding.

The senators who signed the letter are: Cantwell, Murray, Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), James E. Risch (R-ID), Steve Daines, (R-MT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Tom Udall (D-NM).

In May, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation to extend the SRS program for two years. Senate cosponsors include: Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Cantwell, Murray, Wyden, Crapo, Feinstein, Heinrich, Merkley, Risch, Daines, Tester, Udall, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Joe Manchin III (D-WV), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), John Boozman (R-AK), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Al Franken (D-MN), Dean Heller (R-NV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Read today’s letter here.