As part of the COVID-19 relief package passed by the U.S. Senate this weekend, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, created a new two-year program that will pour $1 billion per year into rural counties like Douglas County.
The money is intended to help make up for the fact that the Secure Rural Schools program is expiring this year. The new program is targeted specifically toward poorer, natural resource dependent counties that have struggled financially through the COVID-19 crisis.
Money from the program will also go toward Tribes that have suffered economically.
“These particular rural counties and Tribes were delivered a devastating blow when COVID-19 hit their communities. They are barely hanging on when it comes to resources for their schools, roads, and health services,” Wyden said in a press release.
Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman, who is also president of the Association of O&C Counties, said in a press release that a reduction in timber harvests from federal lands has cost the counties federal timber receipts right when county services are needed more than ever.
“This two-year package will allow O&C County Commissioners to focus on public health, public safety and other vital county services. The Association of O&C Counties thanks Senator Wyden for his work on this funding package,” he said.
Wyden secured the initial Secure Rural Schools package in 2000. It was intended to help solve the economic hit to county governments caused by a decrease in federal timber harvests in counties that have long depended on harvest revenue sharing with the federal government to fund county programs.