WASHINGTON - Rural communities are in line to receive millions in additional Secure Rural Schools funding, after the White House determined that mandatory budget cuts known as "sequestration" will not apply to the program for payments going out early next year, Oregon Democrats Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Peter DeFazio announced Monday.
Wyden, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and DeFazio, top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, had pressed the administration for months to prevent cuts to this crucial support for rural Oregon counties.
"These timber payments are a lifeline for rural timber communities, so it's a relief that counties hanging on by a thread won't have to worry about even more funding slipping away this year," Wyden said.
"At the same time, I'm committed to getting people back to work in the woods, and taking communities off of the roller coaster of renewing these payments every year. I'm going to keep working with Rep. DeFazio and the rest of the Oregon delegation to pass a long=term solution for jobs and vital public services."
DeFazio said, "When the Department of Agriculture announced earlier this year they intended to sequester county payments, I pushed back and argued that their decision didn't make sense."
"This is obviously good news for rural Oregon counties struggling to keep deputies on the roads and criminals in jail, and I urge the Department of Agriculture to reexamine the decision to sequester funds in FY2013 as well," he added.
The White House Office of Management and Budget informed Wyden and DeFazio that the sequester budget cuts will not apply next year because the program was renewed this September, and therefore does not fall under a list of required cuts that was created earlier in the year.
The budget cuts did apply to Secure Rural Schools funding that went out earlier this year. As a result, states and counties lost $18 million – including nearly $4 million in Oregon – that was supposed to create jobs and fund needed forest restoration projects.
Payment amounts are not yet available for individual counties.
Oregon counties are slated to receive roughly $100 million in Secure Rural Schools payments in 2014, out of a total $329 million for counties in 41 states across the country.
Wyden passed the first county payments legislation in 2000. Since then, the program has brought more than $2.8 billion to Oregon counties.