Daines, Tester secure funding for rural schools

Montana’s two senators, Steve Daines and Jon Tester, have helped secure over $12 million for rural counties in Montana by reauthorizing critical federal funding.

Following the decline of timber production in federal forests, Congress passed the Secure Rural Schools Program and Community Self Determination Act in 2000 to compensate rural counties. Since its inception, the program has provided money for schools, roads and other municipal services in over 700 counties across the country and Puerto Rico, according to the Forest Service website.

The $12,197,140 allocated for Montana in the latest iteration of SRS will help cover expenses for over two dozen counties in the next two years.

“As counties continue responding to the COVID-19 pandemic that funding is more important than ever,” said Tester, a Democrat, in a March 3 press release. “I’ll keep pushing to ensure this critical program is extended well into the future so that Montana’s rural counties have the tools they need to thrive.”

After Congress let the program lapse in 2015, Tester helped rally a successful effort to reinstate the program.

Daines, a Republican, praised the program, saying that it put funds in the hands of local officials who are the best stewards of the state’s forests and resources.

“I’ll continue working to secure a long-term solution for this funding and to increase timber harvests in Montana to promote healthier landscapes and rural economies,” he said in an April 2 press release.