Congress Should Renew Secure Rural Schools Program, Extend to Coal Counties 

By Senator Joe Manchin

Pocahontas County, West Virginia is one of the counties that hosts the Monongahela National Forest, which welcomes more than a million visitors to our state each year. However, the Monongahela National Forest occupies over 50% of Pocahontas County.  And, because the forest is federally owned, it is tax exempt, leaving few opportunities for the 9,000 residents of Pocahontas County to pursue economic development.

Because the federal government shares any receipts it receives with local counties, traditionally, communities with large portions of federal lands derived a significant portion of their revenues from the timber harvesting occurring in National Forests.  But, when federal timber harvesting shut down in the 1990s, rural counties faced a fiscal crisis. To address the loss in revenue, Congress enacted the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program which provides federal funding to offset the loss. Fourteen rural counties in West Virginia - Barbour, Grant, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Hardy, Mercer, Monroe, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Preston, Randolph, Tucker and Webster - receive over $1.7 million annually in SRS funding to finance critical services.

Last month, I invited Pocahontas County High School science teacher, Mr. Justin Dilley, to testify before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee about the importance of SRS funding to Pocahontas County High School and other rural high schools across the country.

Congress allowed the law authorizing SRS payments to expire earlier this year. Mr. Dilley said that, as a result, his school district is facing a decrease in funding from $750,000 to just $72,000. The uncertainty around funding makes it nearly impossible for school officials to make long-term plans. Pocahontas County has already had to eliminate five full-time positions in the areas of art, special education, and maintenance.

If SRS is not renewed, Pocahontas County and other school districts across West Virginia stand to lose more school personnel.  Our students will have fewer opportunities. To prevent this from happening, I’m sponsoring a commonsense bill with a bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues to reauthorize Secure Rural Schools for another two years and ensure that our rural counties receive the necessary funding to give our students the education they deserve.

However, as important as it is to renew SRS, simply reauthorizing the program is not enough.

While SRS assists those counties impacted by the loss of the timber industry, these SRS counties are not the only ones facing economic challenges. Many communities in my state are grappling with recent downturns in coal production. With this in mind, I have advocated for extending SRS eligibility to counties impacted by the weakening of the coal industry.

For over a century, West Virginia has been the energy backbone of our great nation. Our coal-producing counties have produced the energy that powered our nation to greatness. It’s simply wrong for the federal government to turn its back on them now.

As the disparities between rural and urban America continue to grow, Congress must recognize that we are all in this together. That’s what SRS is about, and I trust that my colleagues will rise to the occasion and take advantage of this important opportunity to secure the SRS program and provide stable funding for our schools and communities across the country.


Regional Coordinator Mike Browning attended the Holiday Open House at the historic Ramsdell House this weekend in Ceredo. He is pictured with curator Deborah Wolfe and Wayne County Delegate Robert Thompson in the Civil War Room of the house, which is believed to have been a part of the Underground Railroad.




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As your U.S. Senator, I am proud to be your voice with government agencies during your time of need. My goal is for me and my staff to provide the best possible customer service for every West Virginian who contacts me needing assistance. While I have no direct jurisdiction in legal or administrative matters of any federal, state, or local agency, I welcome the opportunity to assist you in any way possible and to assure that full consideration is given to your case. See one of our recent success stories below:

Mr. Calvin Boggess from Charleston is an Air Force Veteran who was stationed in Thailand from 1974 to 1975.  He contacted Caseworker Kim Berry in the Senator’s office in December 2015 for assistance when his claim for service-connected disability was denied.  In June 2019, Calvin was diagnosed with additional health issues, prompting an additional inquiry from the Senator to be submitted to the Department of Veteran Affairs in order to advance his appeal.  The VA granted Mr. Boggess his appeal for diabetes and the Huntington Regional office expedited his rating.

It is an honor to serve you, Mr. Boggess!



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Economic Injury Disaster Loan Availability Announcement  

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced that Economic Injury Disaster Loans are available to small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and private nonprofit organizations located in Mingo County, West Virginia, as a result of drought beginning Oct. 15, 2019.

"This county is eligible because it is contiguous to one or more primary counties in Kentucky. The Small Business Administration recognizes that disasters do not usually stop at county or state lines. For that reason, counties adjacent to primary counties named in the declaration are included," said Kem Fleming, director of SBA’s Field Operations Center East.

Learn more here.

Social Security Phone Scam - Learn How to Protect Yourself 

Social Security employees do occasionally contact people--generally those who have ongoing business with the agency--by telephone for business purposes. However, Social Security employees will never threaten a person or promise a Social Security benefit approval, or increase, in exchange for information. In those cases, the call is fraudulent and people should not engage with the caller. If a person receives these calls, he or she should report the information to the OIG Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271 or online at https://oig.ssa.gov/report.

To watch a PSA about the scam, click here or visit www.ssa.gov for more information.

Social Security has recently worked with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission to create a new fraud prevention placemat to help you avoid Social Security scams. You can order free copies of the placemat to use at dining venues, or to share with friends and family. The placemat is in English on one side and Spanish on the other side.


To learn more, call my office Toll Free at (855) 275-5737, email me, or find me on social media: