Tester Fights to Reauthorize Critical Funding for Montana Counties

Senator to Capitol Hill: ‘Support Rural Communities’

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester is fighting to secure critical funding for Montana counties.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Tester is demanding Congress reauthorize Secure Rural Schools (SRS) to ensure Montana counties can afford essential services.

“We are now witnessing firsthand the hardships rural counties face as a result of SRS authorization lapsing,” Tester wrote. “Without the certainty of SRS payments, schools, libraries and jails are in danger of closing.”

SRS was enacted in 2000 and provides funds to counties with federal land to compensate for declining timber production. SRS, which is supported by both Republicans and Democrats, contributed nearly $16 million to rural counties’ budgets in Fiscal Year 2015.

SRS funds are used to help cover the costs of schools, road maintenance, law enforcement and search and rescue operations. However, the program expired in 2015 and counties have been forced to rely on revenue from declining federal timber sales since the last SRS payment in early 2016.

“Schools that remain open will see a reduction of teachers. Roads go unpaved and become unsafe. Mental and physical health services are scaled back or even ended,” Tester continued. “The SRS program continues to be a critical safety-net for forest counties.”

You can read the full text of the letter HERE.