County pledges ARP funds to broadband

Board of Supervisors approves $25,000 in matching funds for countywide broadband strategic plan grant

TULARE COUNTY – The digital divide—the gap between those who have access to broadband and computing devices, and those who do not—came into the spotlight during the pandemic when schools and businesses were ordered shutter, forcing an inequitable situation on many to work and learn from home. Now the county has pledged to use a small portion of it’s approximately $90 million in American Rescue Plan relief funds to expand broadband access into underserved communities.

The Tulare County Board of Supervisors approved $25,000 in matching funds at its June 29 meeting to get the ball rolling on getting a broadband strategic plan for the county.

The Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) has recommended that its subsidiary, The Golden State Finance Authority (GSFA), submit a grant application on behalf of RCRC member counties—including Tulare County—to develop broadband strategic plans for each county and it’s cities and towns.

A grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) would cover 80% of the approximately $120,000 for the countywide broadband plan. Should the grant be approved, the county’s matching funds would cover the remainder of the cost. The Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) allocated $3 billion to EDA to assist communities nationwide in advancing their coronavirus recovery and resiliency strategies. Having a countywide strategic plan would enable Tulare County to apply for broadband project implementation funds from various federal agencies, including from EDA’s $3 billion in ARP funds.

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