Can I spend American Recovery Plan funding on Digital Inclusion and computers? Yes you can!

The other day I outlines some of the specifics in the American Recovery Plan that looked at broadband deployment; today I want to share notes from NDIA’s (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) take on how other parts of the plan can support for digital use and inclusion…

$350 billion is allocated in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) to state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments for the purpose of ‘laying the foundation for a strong and equitable recovery.’ Within ARPA, three funds may be used to support digital inclusion or broadband deployment activities: Sec. 602, the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund, Sec. 603the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund and Sec. 604, The Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund (CCPF). 602 and 603 are usually discussed together and guidance is provided in an Interim Final Rule. Guidance for Sec. 604 is forthcoming and expected to be similar to the 602 and 603 guidance.

More info on Sec. 602, the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund and Sec. 603the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund

On page 33 of the Sec 602 and 603 Interim Final Rule, “Assistance to Households’ is defined as the following:

“Assistance to households or populations facing negative economic impacts due to COVID-19 is also an eligible use. This includes: food assistance; rent, mortgage, or utility assistance; counseling and legal aid to prevent eviction or homelessness; cash assistance (discussed below); emergency assistance for burials, home repairs, weatherization, or other needs; internet access or digital literacy assistance; or job training to address negative economic or public health impacts experienced due to a worker’s occupation or level of training. As discussed above, in considering whether a potential use is eligible under this category, a recipient must consider whether, and the extent to which, the household has experienced a negative economic impact from the pandemic.”

The Interim Final Rule notes that for the ‘Assistance to households’ category, when applicants are “considering whether a potential use is eligible under this category, a recipient must consider whether, and the extent to which, the household has experienced a negative economic impact from the pandemic.” But the Interim Final Review goes on to say, “In assessing whether a household or population experienced economic harm as a result of the pandemic, a recipient may presume that a household or population that experienced unemployment or increased food or housing insecurity or is low- or moderate-income experienced negative economic impacts resulting from the pandemic.”

We interpret “internet access or digital literacy assistance” to include:

      • Covering the cost of a household’s broadband service, including through bulk purchases

      • Outreach for low-cost and subsidized broadband service

      • Digital literacy training

      • Digital navigation

      • Purchasing devices for households

      • Broadband infrastructure

 

More info on Sec. 604. The Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund (CCPF)

Sec. 604. The Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund (CCPF) is a separate, $10 billion fund which “allows for investment in high-quality broadband as well as other connectivity infrastructure, devices, and equipment.” The Treasury Department will begin to accept applications for review in the summer of 2021 and will issue guidance soon. Eligible applicants are required to submit a plan describing how they intend to use the funds and how they will be consistent with the Treasury guidance.

State, local, territorial, and Tribal governments do not have to submit plans for how they intend to use the funds for Sec. 602 or Sec. 603. They can now request the funding allocated to them based on the funding formulas from the Treasury. As the funds were intentionally structured to be flexible in use, we anticipate each local and state government to apply their funds differently to meet their community’s needs.

It’s really good news and hopefully sets the stage for recognizing that people need more than the wires to make use of broadband!

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, FCC, Funding, Policy and tagged by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s