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USDA issues $550m in broadband funding

USDA will make available up to $200 million each for grants, 50/50 grant/loan combinations and low-interest loans.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the availability of a second round of $550 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture Reconnect Pilot Program funding appropriated by Congress. The application window for this round of funding is set to open Jan. 31, 2020.

Perdue made the announcement alongside Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds while congratulating the Farmers Mutual Telephone Co. of Stanton, Iowa, for receiving $6.4 million in first-round Reconnect Pilot Program funding to connect 477 households, 35 farms and 21 businesses in Montgomery and Page counties.

In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. On Dec. 13, 2018, Perdue announced the rules of the program, called ReConnect, including how the loans and grants will be awarded to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America.

USDA received 146 applications between May 31 and July 12, 2019, requesting $1.4 billion in funding across all three ReConnect Program funding products: 100% loan, 100% grant and loan/grant combinations. USDA is reviewing applications and announcing approved projects on a rolling basis.

To date, USDA has awarded $191 million through the ReConnect program, with offers out to 47 additional potential recipients totaling more than $600 million in investments. Additional investments in all three categories will be made in the coming weeks.

These grants, loans and combination funds enable the federal government to partner with the private sector and rural communities to build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with insufficient internet service. Insufficient service is defined as connection speeds of less than 10 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload.

“This second round of ReConnect funding will help USDA be an even stronger partner in closing the digital divide in America’s rural communities,” Perdue said. “Our core mission at USDA is to increase rural prosperity through boosting economic opportunity in rural America. We know that rural communities need robust, modern infrastructure to thrive, and that includes having access to broadband e-connectivity. Under the leadership of President [Donald] Trump and in cooperation with congressional appropriators, USDA is proud to partner with rural communities to deploy this critical infrastructure, because we know when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”

Reynolds added, “Iowa is home to creative entrepreneurs who are driving technological innovation across the heartland. By leveraging local, state and federal resources, we are investing like never before in broadband connectivity and sparking revitalization across rural Iowa. I appreciate Secretary Perdue for being here today to represent the Trump Administration’s unwavering commitment to growing all aspects of rural America.”

USDA will make available up to $200 million for grants, up to $200 million for 50/50 grant/loan combinations and up to $200 million for low-interest loans. The application window for this round of funding will open Jan. 31, 2020. Applications for all funding products will be accepted in the same application window, which will close no later than March 16, 2020.

A full description of 2020 ReConnect Pilot Program funding is available on page 67913 of the Dec. 12, 2019, Federal Register. To learn more about eligibility, technical assistance and recent announcements, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.

Source: USDA.

TAGS: Policy
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