Senators Cantwell, Murray, Call for Long-Term PILT, SRS Solution to Provide Financial Security for Rural Communities in Midst of COVID-19 Crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, joined a bipartisan group of 25 of their Senate colleagues in urging Senate leadership to provide much-needed financial assistance during the COVID-19 crisis for rural communities to provide essential services.

In a letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) the senators 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.”

In October, Cantwell and Murray requested a two-year reauthorization of the PILT and SRS programs, which provide critical funding for local governments and schools in Washington state. Local governments in Washington state received $23.06 million through the PILT program in fiscal year 2019 to help provide vital services like firefighting, police protection, and construction of public roads. The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) was enacted in 2000 to financially assist counties with public, tax-exempt forestlands, and SRS funding has supported thousands of schools and millions of students across the United States. Washington state received $13.98 million in SRS payments in fiscal year 2019.

Senators Cantwell and Murray have long supported PILT and SRS and have repeatedly fought against proposals to cut funding from these programs.

Joining Cantwell and Murray in signing the letter were U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), James Risch (R-ID), 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) John Boozman (R-AR), 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 D. Harris (D-CA), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). 

The full text of the letter is available HERE.