- Associated Press - Friday, December 20, 2019

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Alaska’s Congressional delegation has announced a two-year extension for payments to rural communities to be included in final federal appropriations bills this year.

Payments from the Secure Rural Schools and the Payment in Lieu of Taxes programs are expected to fund school operations and maintenance, road work and special projects in communities near national forest land, Alaska Public Radio reported Thursday.

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young, all Republicans, made the announcement on Dec. 18.

The schools program replaces federal funding that previously sourced from timber sales and other business activity on national forests.

The program provided nearly $11 million to Alaska communities in 2019.

The Payment in Lieu of Taxes program has been fully funded in the federal appropriations bill for the Interior Department.

The Payment in Lieu of Taxes program paid more than $30 million to cities, boroughs and census areas from Southeast Alaska to the North Slope in 2019.

More than 96% of land in the Petersburg borough is part of the Tongass National Forest.

The Petersburg school district and borough general fund received more than $1 million from the two programs in 2019, officials said.

Wrangell City and Borough Mayor Steve Prysunka testified before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November to express support for the two federal programs. Together they provide Wrangell about $1.5 million, he said.

Because of the Tongass National Forest, Prysunka said more than 97% of his borough is owned and managed by the federal government.

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