Spanberger: Applications Now Open for Next Round of USDA ReConnect Program Funding

Last Month, the Congresswoman Successfully Protected $550 Million in Funding for Rural Broadband Internet Projects through the ReConnect Program for FY 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Reconnect Loan and Grant program is now receiving funding applications for local broadband internet projects.

Across the country, the ReConnect Program partners with rural communities and local businesses to expand high-speed broadband internet infrastructure. Starting today, Friday, January 31, ReConnect applications can be submitted at www.usda.gov/reconnect.

Last month, Spanberger successfully fought to protect ReConnect funding from elimination. In October 2019, Spanberger urged U.S. House and U.S. Senate appropriators to include ReConnect funding in the final budget legislation after the U.S. Senate zeroed-out funding for the program in its fiscal year (FY) 2020 Agriculture Appropriations bill.

“A lack of reliable high-speed internet access creates an opportunity divide between Central Virginia’s rural communities and our suburban areas. Across our district, I’ve heard repeatedly about the economic and educational challenges stemming from this digital divide,” said Spanberger. “The ReConnect Program represents a viable option for expanding connectivity throughout our rural areas, and with the launch of the ReConnect application period today, I hope many of our local officials and business leaders will consider learning more about the potential benefits of this key program. Just last month, I was proud to protect ReConnect funding from senseless cuts—and I’ll keep working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to expand high-speed internet throughout Central Virginia and across rural America.”

Earlier this year, Spanberger introduced and passed an amendment to secure millions of additional dollars in funding for the ReConnect program in the House version of the FY 2020 Agriculture Appropriations bill.

BACKGROUND

Since arriving in the U.S. House, Spanberger has worked to expand high-speed broadband internet access across Central Virginia’s rural communities, including by:

  • Bringing awareness to the issue of rural broadband access. In August 2019, Spanberger hosted her Rural Broadband Summit in Louisa County to hear about how a lack of reliable broadband internet access is impacting families, farmers, first responders, and small business owners across Central Virginia.
  • Amplifying and collecting the stories of Central Virginians. Spanberger has worked to amplify and collect the stories of Central Virginians who are currently facing unnecessary challenges due to the absence of broadband internet in their community. Earlier this year, she collected these stories through her 2019 Rural Broadband Survey, in which she asked Central Virginians to describe how a lack of reliable broadband access has personally impacted them, their families, or their businesses.
  • Bringing the eConnectivity concerns of Central Virginians directly to USDA leadership. During her first House Agriculture Committee hearing, Spanberger asked USDA Secretary Perdue about his thoughts on expanding rural broadband. Spanberger also invited Secretary Perdue to visit her district to hear directly from Central Virginia farmers and dairy producers, and get their feedback on current USDA policies and 2018 Farm Bill implementation. He accepted her invitation. Click here for a full video of her remarks.
  • Working with colleagues to find common ground on rural broadband policy. Earlier this year, Spanberger announced her appointment to a new task force focused on expanding high-speed internet access in rural communities. The House Task Force on Rural Broadband will provide coordination and leadership to increase investment in rural broadband internet infrastructure across the United States, and it will operate under an overarching goal to make sure all Americans have reliable access to high-speed internet by 2025. And as Co-Chair of the Blue Dog Coalition’s rural opportunity task force, she co-authored an op-ed on Fox News online to highlight the need to pursue smart, bipartisan rural broadband infrastructure policies.

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