HB 249 (Davis) expands the eligibility criteria for counties applying for Virginia Telecommunications Initiative grant (VATI) funds. Specifically, the bill directs the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to align the eligibility criteria with the same found in the U.S. Treasury’s Final Rule regarding the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. VACo supports this change as it will significantly increase the availability of state funds, that can be matched with federal and local dollars, to build broadband infrastructure at bandwidths and speeds capable of supporting reliable use.
- Eligibility for use of VATI funds is limited and not flexible enough to address situations where private providers are not available to meet demand. Specifically, local governments are limited to using VATI for the building of private-sector infrastructure. Federal recovery funds not only allow localities to use them for publicly owned facilities, but they also encourage applicants to construct and install robust infrastructure at speeds and capacities to meet the needs of their community.
- Localities can also use funds under federal eligibility criteria to provide affordable access to service. Such use is critical in terms of providing opportunities to expand access to education, telework, telemedicine and economic development.
VACo will continue to provide updates on the progress of the bill, including opportunities to express support once it has been assigned to a committee and scheduled for a vote.