March 22, 2021

Congressman Neguse Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Fund Rural Schools and Road Maintenance Throughout Colorado

Washington D.C.— Today, Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO) and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) introduced bipartisan legislation to provide funding to Colorado’s mountain communities and rural areas across the United States, through funds for rural schools, emergency response and road maintenance. The bill provides supplemental federal funding to counties across the United States that are home to large areas of tax-exempt National Forests and Federal Lands. The program provides payments derived in part through timber receipts and other leasing activities within National Forests back to county governments where those forests are located to support local schools, and emergency operations. 

“Colorado’s mountain communities rely on funds from the Secure Rural Schools program to equip their students and fund road maintenance and emergency response operations,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “For schools in Grand, Summit and Eagle Counties and mountain communities across Colorado, these funds make the difference for our students; purchasing textbooks, updating school infrastructure and equipping mountain search and rescue operations. It’s critical that our rural communities can rely on the consistency of this funding to plan ahead and to support our students.”  

“The Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program provides critical financial certainty to many of the rural counties here in Eastern Washington,” said Congresswoman Rodgers. “This legislation will extend this program through Fiscal Year 2022 so that our rural communities can continue to fund important infrastructure projects, public education, law enforcement, and other essential services. It also includes important reforms to better support our counties and provide the additional flexibility needed to invest in rural broadband for our schools, setting our children up for greater success in the classroom. Without this funding, people in rural, timber-dependent communities will get left behind.”

“SRS funding continues to be vital in our efforts to provide all of our students with a quality education,” said Frank Reeves, Superintendent of East Grand School District. “We live in an area with an extremely high cost of living.  This cost of living causes the socio-economic gap to continually widen.  As our county and district grow it is vital that we keep our limited resources focused on making sure all of our students have access to becoming successful in school and as adults.  With roughly 2/3rds of our district being on National Forest land we lack the ability to collect the property taxes needed to support our students.  SRS allows East Grand to continue to support our quality teachers, maintain infrastructure in our facilities and provide curriculum and technology for our students.  We have also been able to keep our class sizes relatively small resulting in teachers and staff being able to focus more individualized efforts to support all of our students. Without the additional funding from Secure Rural Schools it would be extremely difficult to maintain our quality of education for all.”

“As a rural school district in a mountain resort community, Summit School District (SSD) utilizes SRS funds to provide additional targeted supports and resources to our PK-12 scholars,” said Dr. Marion Smith, Jr, Superintendent of Summit School District. “We appreciate the bipartisan legislation led by our Congressman Joe Neguse for the continuation of these funds as we strive to be an equity-seeking, learning focused system of continuous improvement.”

“Extending Secure Rural Schools for another two years will help ensure that forest counties have the necessary resources to serve our residents and visitors,” said National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase. “We welcome key reforms in this bipartisan bill, including increasing payments to FY 2017 levels, improvements allowing conservation and infrastructure projects on federal lands to proceed, and flexibility to expand broadband access in rural schools. We thank Representatives Neguse and McMorris Rodgers for their leadership and urge Congress to swiftly pass this legislation.”

The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act provided the following funds in 2019: 

  • Grand County: $1,522,984.98
  • Saguache County: $1,304,824.47 
  • Eagle County: $809,544.34
  • Summit County: $891,109.86
  • Gunnison County: $731,202.09
  • Pitkin County:  $668,953.55 
  • Clear Creek County: $462,735.98
  • Park County: $380,872.43 
  • Mesa County: $369,035.87  
  • Larimer County: $277,817.52 
  • Gilpin County: $27,837.82

Background 

In 2019, Congressman Neguse passed into law a two year reauthorization of the program, one of nine bills he enacted during his first term in Congress. 

Over the last year, Congressman Neguse has championed an effort to provide direct local relief to communities struggling amidst the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, he introduced the Coronavirus Community Relief Act, to provide direct stabilization funds to every city and county in Colorado. His proposal was included in the American Rescue Plan and was signed into law on March 11. Click here to see a full list of projected funds for Colorado communities. 

###