On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was signed into law, bringing with it more than $2 trillion in economic stimulus. The CARES Act included funding provisions for individuals, the private sector and state and local governments. States are rapidly determining how to spend funding allocations, working toward an end-of-year allocation deadline. Where allowable under U.S. Treasury guidelines, broadband investments have been a priority for multiple states, such as investments to upgrade distanced learning capacity. Many states are funding device purchases for students and teachers and Wi-Fi routers in school buses, prioritizing rural and low-income individuals. The below table describes selected examples of how Governors are deploying CARES Act funding on broadband. Since new allocations continue to be made, this table should be considered a snapshot in time.
Select State Investments in Broadband Leveraging CARES Act Funding
Alabama: Allocated up to $300 million for expenditures related to remote learning, $53 million for remote work, and established a broadband working group to guide CARES Act funding toward relevant broadband projects.
Arkansas: Allocated $10 million to seven telecommunications companies to expand broadband access in rural communities.
Delaware: $20 million for broadband infrastructure, with $13 million directed toward wireless vouchers and devices for underserved families with school-age children.
Idaho: $50 million for broadband infrastructure – directing funding to private companies to make broadband investments.
Iowa: $85 million for expanding telework, telehealth and remote learning through broadband expansion. Opened $50 million in CARES act funding to award grants for broadband infrastructure expansion. The program is run through the existing Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant Program.
Kansas: Allocated more than $130 million toward coronavirus response. While broadband expansion is not the entirety of these relief funds, it is an eligible activity. One grant supports telework and telehealth needs, while a separate grant funds remote learning needs for low-income households.
Michigan: $25 million to support connectivity for school children and their families. Fund to cover several device-purchasing options to support remote learning expansion in the next 3-6 months. More incentives are made towards communities with higher poverty rates.
Mississippi: Allocating $275 million in federal funding toward broadband – $65 million to state’s electric co-ops for rural broadband expansion. Program matches federal funding with broadband expansion costs borne by the utilities. Pandemic Response Broadband Availability Act set up a $50 million special fund in state treasury to grants for school districts in compliance with CARES Act. $150 million is allocated to school districts to purchase laptops for students and boost distanced learning capabilities.
Missouri: $10 million for remote K-12 learning – reimburses school districts for increasing student connectivity and campus Wi-Fi networks. $10 million for higher ed distanced learning needs. $5.25 million for telehealth, with plans to install more than 12,500 hotspots. $20 million to reimburse broadband providers. $2.5 million for library resources that will support hotspots and Wi-Fi access for telehealth and higher ed resources. Additional funding available for broadband technical assistance requests.
Nevada: $50 million for K-12 schools to create alternative intensive instruction. This program targets students “likely to develop the largest deficits in education attainment” from a lack of in-school learning. Students include English as Second Language students, low-income students, those with low test scores or at low performing schools, among others.
New Hampshire: $50 million for broadband – seeking applications for enhancing remote learning, remote work and telehealth. Again, this application is on an accelerated time scale, with the application open for two weeks and notifications two weeks later. All projects must be completed by December 15.
New Mexico: $1.5 million in CARES Act funds for broadband technical assistance for local and tribal governments and other groups to advance broadband deployment and help communities prepare for Federal funding opportunities. Partnered with the N.M. Public Education Department and others to identify, promote and support broadband solutions for K-12 students that reside in unserved or underserved areas of the state. As of June 2020, this collaborative has used CARES Act funding to purchase and distribute 700 residential hotspots (Navajo Nation), thousands of Chromebooks and numerous other fixed and mobile hotspot devices for Tribal communities.
North Carolina:$672,000 for telework capabilities. Gov. Cooper signed legislation to provide $56 million for distanced learning activities including installing Wi-Fi routers in school buses, providing home internet access points, purchases computers for K-12 students and teachers, as well as providing funding for cybersecurity infrastructure.
North Dakota: $23.9 million for telework, $17 million for cybersecurity and $26.8 million for digital government services.
Puerto Rico: $40 million for telework program, $40 million for telemedicine program.
South Carolina: Allocating $50 million to broadband programs. One program targets all students to provide mobile hotspots in 100,000 qualifying households. Funding will also support identified areas of need and a mapping program.
South Dakota: Governor Kristi Noem announced CARES Act funds would support the K-12 Connect program to provide internet service at no cost to eligible K-12 students in their homes for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.
Tennessee: Governor Bill Lee announced $61 million to be allocated for emergency broadband funds to support telehealth, remote learning and telework services. The state allocated $60 million of general funds towards broadband and this new funding will potentially support projects that were previously denied due to a lack of program funding.
Vermont: $17.5 million to a new COVID-Response Accelerated Broadband Connectivity Program, supplements lifeline program, telehealth services, remote learning or telework needs, with $2.5 million segmented out to separately address telecommunications services, telehealth, connected Communications Union Districts.
Virginia:$30 million in CARES Act funding for broadband projects. Localities are encouraged to apply with projects that “creatively address the digital divide, including projects that address infrastructure or the cost of broadband services.”
West Virginia: $50 million for general broadband development.
Wyoming: Coordination between Governor Mark Gordon and the state Business Council identified several broadband expansion projects and deployed $55 million of CARES Act funding.