WASHINGTON – The National Association of Counties (NACo) today sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Treasury calling on the agency to consult with NACo and state associations of counties in the development of the distribution formula for the Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund, which is part of the American Rescue Plan Act and will provide $1.5 billion in direct, flexible aid to public lands counties over the next two years. An excerpt from the letter reads:
“The legislation tasks the U.S. Treasury Department (Treasury) with developing a distribution formula based on each eligible county’s economic conditions, such as poverty and unemployment rates, household income and land value. While the legislation is silent on the exact formula, Senator Ron Wyden during the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act stated in the Congressional Record, ‘I fully expect Treasury to consult with others in government who have history in this arena on the creation of this new formula such as the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior, as well as the National Association of Counties, state county associations, including the Association of O&C Counties Oregon, and many other groups with a deep understanding of these impacts across the United States.’
“We therefore respectfully request Treasury consult with NACo and state associations of counties in the development of this formula. Counties are eager to work with the Administration on this new endeavor that will support economic development and essential services in rural, public lands counties. The fair distribution of these funds will ensure the communities most in-need will receive these funds to develop their economies, support health and human services programs, provide emergency services and maintain critical infrastructure.”
Read the full letter here.
Sixty-two percent of America’s counties contain untaxable federal public lands, yet counties are still responsible for providing many services in and around these lands. Many of these county economies are also reliant on natural resource extraction, such as timber harvests and petroleum drilling, leaving them more susceptible to boom-and-bust economic cycles. The presence of federal public lands, which are subject to strict federal regulations, can make it even more difficult to climb out of an economic downturn like the recession spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.