Missouri Announces $50 Million Broadband Expansion to Aid in COVID-19 Recovery Effort
Missouri Governor Mike Parson recently announced nearly $50 million to support broadband expansion across Missouri. Funding for the new programs comes in large part from the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund and is aimed at improving resiliency and aiding in the COVID-19 pandemic response across the state.
“Providing Missourians essential services during this time is one of our top priorities,” said Governor Parson. “Ensuring citizens have appropriate access to telehealth and education and that they are able to telework is critical. These are not optional services, and we want to do our best to increase connectivity across the state.”
The broadband expansion includes several new initiatives. Broadband initiatives include $10 million for higher education distance learning. Allowing public institutions to upgrade their campus broadband networks, offer students access to Wi-Fi enabled devices or hotspots, and enhance learning management systems allowing Missouri universities to continue to churn out world-class talent for new and expanding businesses to take advantage of.
Additional initiatives include:
- Emergency Broadband Investment: This initiative allocates $20 million to establish a reimbursement program for broadband providers. It will assist providers with construction costs for new broadband expansion to households with students or vulnerable populations. By November of 2020, this program plans to make more than 10,000 new connections in unserved and underserved areas of the state.
- Telehealth: $5.25 million will support connectivity for telehealth services for vulnerable populations. In partnership with Missouri Telehealth Network, located with the University of Missouri – Columbia’s School of Medicine, more than 12,500 hotspots will be secured for use by the Federally Qualified Health Centers and the Community Mental Health Centers.
- Libraries: The Office of the State Librarian within the Secretary of State’s office will deploy $2.5 million to implement and administer a grant program for Missouri’s libraries to access resources for hotspots and Wi-Fi enabled devices to support telehealth and students of higher education.
- K-12 Distance Learning: The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will allocate $10 million of the Coronavirus Relief Fund to Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to seek reimbursement for eligible costs to increase student connectivity.
- Broadband Technical Assistance Request: The Missouri Association of Councils of Government (MACOG) and DED have partnered together to apply for nearly $615,000 in grant support from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to support a pilot project for Broadband Modeling and Engineering Feasibility Plans for up to 24 counties or 8 regional clusters.
“Improving Missouri’s digital infrastructure is essential to the resiliency of our economy in this pandemic and beyond,” said Rob Dixon, Director of Missouri’s Department of Economic Development. “By providing these essential resources, we are better able to work toward economic recovery, and help Missourians prosper.”