Denver – Today, Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R) called on Senate leaders to provide much-needed financial certainty for rural communities during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis to ensure long-term funding needed for essential services.
In a letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Bennet, Gardner, and a bipartisan group of colleagues 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,” wrote Bennet, Gardner, and their colleagues. “With inadequate funding and now additional demands on their resources, rural communities and counties are at the breaking point.”
Bennet and Gardner supported a two-year extension of SRS last year, which was passed into law as a part of the Fiscal Year 2020 spending package. In September 2019, Bennet and Gardner also introduced legislation to reauthorize the PILT program for ten years. In March, Bennet and U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) led an annual bipartisan letter, co-signed by Gardner, to the Senate Committee on Appropriations calling for full funding for PILT in the upcoming spending legislation. In previous years, Bennet and Gardner have also called for full funding of the PILT program in end-of-year funding legislation.
In addition to Bennet and Gardner, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Dan Sullivan (R-Ark.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).The text of the letter is available HERE.