Arkansas receiving $47.5 million in ARPA funds for broadband expansion

The U.S. Department of Treasury released $47.5 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to Arkansas, the department announced Tuesday.

The money will be used to connect 5,500 homes and businesses to high-speed internet. The money will be distributed through a grant program administered by Arkansas Rural Connect. Low-income families will be eligible for a $30 per month subsidy for internet, according to the Treasury Department.

“I appreciate the Treasury Department’s approval of this funding as we continue our work toward expanding broadband access in Arkansas,” Governor Asa Hutchinson said in a news release. “Ensuring access to high-speed internet presents a challenge in rural states, and this funding will provide us an opportunity to build on the work we’ve already done through the Arkansas Rural Connect Program.”

A report released by the Broadband Development Group in April showed that $500 million would be needed to connect Arkansas households lacking adequate broadband access. At the time, the Arkansas Rural Connect program had issued $386 million for high-speed internet. Hutchinson established the program in 2019.

The money represents 30% of Arkansas’ $158 million allotment from ARPA’s Capital Projects Fund. The fund is designed to give states money for infrastructure projects as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are splitting $9.8 billion. Tribal governments and U.S. territories have each been allotted $100 million.

“The pandemic upended life as we knew it—from work to school to connecting with friends and family—and exposed the stark inequity in access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet in communities across the country, but especially in rural, Tribal, and low-income communities,” said Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo in a news release. “This funding will lay the foundation for the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic investments to increase access to high-speed internet and reduce broadband bills for American households and businesses.”

Congress passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act in 2021 and President Joe Biden signed in March of that year.

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