IMPORTANT UPDATE: Letters from Virginia DHCD required to apply for USDA broadband grants

May 3, 2019

Qualifying applications by counties for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) ReConnect Loan and Grant Program (first round applications due May 31), must include two letters from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) in order to be accepted:

  • The first letter certifies that a proposed project area has not received state funding in the past five years. To get the necessary letter from DHCD, applicants must submit a proposed project area to vati@dhcd.virginia.gov by Monday, May 20. DHCD notes that fully completed applications are not necessary to submit, only the proposed project areas. This certification process may take significant staff time so please send in the project areas as soon as possible. Should an applicant’s project area qualify, they will receive the necessary certification letter as soon as possible.
  • The second letter, which will be included with the project area certification letter, will detail the state’s efforts regarding broadband. This letter is worth 20 scoring points in the grant review process.

Both letters MUST be included in any application to USDA. DHCD encourages applicants to refer to the USDA mapping tool and and website to determine eligible funding areas and program specifications. Applicants who have program or application questions can contact Richard Jenkins at richard.jenkins@usda.gov. Applicants who have questions about the state letters or review process can send inquiries to vati@dhcd.virginia.gov.

BACKGROUND
Last year the U.S. Congress approved $600 million in appropriations to expand broadband infrastructure in rural areas. The ReConnect Loan and Grant Program has announced that it will begin accepting the first round of online applications starting April 23, 2019.

USDA is making available up to $200 million in grants, $200 million in loan and grant combinations, and $200 million in low-interest loans. The application deadlines are:

  • May 31, 2019, for grants;
  • June 21, 2019, for loan/grant combinations;
  • July 12, 2019, for low-interest loans.

Applicants can request technical assistance from USDA by filling out this contact form.

Counties as well as telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, and internet service providers may apply for funding through USDA’s ReConnect Program to connect rural areas that currently have insufficient broadband service. Funds will be awarded to projects that have financially sustainable business models that will bring high-speed broadband to rural homes, businesses, farms, ranches and community facilities such as first responders, health care sites and schools.

For additional information, see page 5981 of the Feb. 25, 2019, Federal Register and page 64315 of the Dec. 14, 2018, Federal Register or visit reconnect.usda.gov.

VACo Contact: Joe Lerch, AICP

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