U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced USDA is now accepting applications for ReConnect Program loans and grants to expand access to high-speed internet for millions of people in rural America nationwide. The Department is making more than $1 billion available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“Ensuring that the people of rural America are connected with reliable, high-speed internet brings new and innovative ideas to the rest of our country, and it remains a core priority for President Biden,” Vilsack said. “That’s why high-speed internet is an important part of USDA Rural Development’s work with rural communities.”
On Sept. 6, USDA began accepting applications for loans, with available funds of $150 million, grants with available funds of $700 million, and combination loan/grant awards using $300 million under the ReConnect Program.
These funds were appropriated under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Governmentwide. The law provides a historic $65 billion investment to expand affordable, high-speed internet to all communities across the U.S.
Improved application process
USDA has made several improvements to the ReConnect Program for the current round of applications. Collectively, these improvements increase the availability of funding in rural areas where residents and businesses lack access to affordable, high-speed internet. They include:
- Allowing applicants to serve areas where at least 50% of households lack sufficient access to high-speed internet.
- Adding a funding category for projects where 90% of households lack sufficient access to high-speed internet. For applications submitted under this category, no matching funds will be required.
- Waiving the matching funds requirement for: Alaska Native Corporations, Tribal Governments, projects proposing to provide service in colonias, projects proposing to serve persistent poverty counties, and projects proposing to provide service in socially vulnerable communities.
To ensure that rural households in need of internet service can afford it, all awardees will be required to apply to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program. The ACP offers a discount of up to $30 per month towards internet service to qualifying low-income households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal Lands.
To date, USDA has announced $356 million in critical investments through the third round of ReConnect funding, for a total of $1.8 billion invested through the ReConnect Program since the program’s inception. More investments will be announced in the coming weeks.
The application deadline is Nov. 2. Learn more about program eligibility and investment resources for rural areas, or contact the nearest USDA Rural Development state office.
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