MN House bonding committee hears of billions in federal funds available for MN capital projects – including broadband

I’ve said before, I just can’t hear enough about the federal funding coming for broadband. It’s confusing and the numbers are huge. (Huge but not sufficient to get border to border broadband.) If you feel the same, this is another concise view of the funds coming it. This look was different for me because it wasn’t just broadband-focused. Interesting to compare to other capital projects. (You can keep track on the MN Management and Budget IIJA website.)

And here’s the recap from the MN House…

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

The federal government has promised about $1 trillion to the states through the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Minnesota is expected to receive more than $7.4 billion in formula funds over the next five years, but a majority require a state match.

State agencies have been coordinating with each other and local agencies to maximize the impact of the federal dollars, said Liz Connor, MMB’s strategic initiatives manager. She highlighted the state’s IIJA website, with information for local governments and others on technical assistance and resources, as well as a grant opportunity tracking form.

Minnesota has been awarded nearly $5.9 billion to date, but that doesn’t mean there is authority to spend it, Connor said, though MMB has a handle on what the state will be pursuing. Gov. Tim Walz’s proposed budget — scheduled for release Jan. 24 — is expected to include proposals for matching funds.

Questions the committee must answer, said Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City), include how much money is available, how much the match is, and how much the state needs to unlock federal funds.

American Rescue Plan

Minnesota was also awarded $180.7 million through the American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund. To access the fund, capital projects must:

  • directly enable work, education and health monitoring;

  • address needs arising from, exacerbated by or identified following the COVID-19 pandemic; and

  • address a critical need of the community served.

To date, $130.7 million to expand access to broadband in Minnesota has been approved by the U.S. Treasury Department. This includes $15 million for a new program to help homes and businesses defray the construction costs of bringing broadband services from the road to the door.

The state is awaiting a federal response — possibly by fall 2023 — on another proposed $50 million for multi-purpose community facility projects that’d be administered by the Department of Education. Examples of eligible projects include improving internet access at libraries or creating employment centers at community health care sites.

Adosh Unni, the department’s director of government relations, said the expected 2- to 2 ½-year turnaround to spend funds once they’re allocated is manageable.

This entry was posted in Conferences, Funding, MN, 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.

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