May 11, 2021

WARNER, KING, MANCHIN & HASSAN APPLAUD TREASURY GUIDANCE ON IMPLEMENTATION OF EMERGENCY BROADBAND FUNDS

~ Guidance allows applicants to use funds to increase broadband adoption and access ~

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) praised new guidance by the Biden administration regarding the implementation of the $10 billion Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund (CCPF) that the senators successfully worked to include within the American Rescue Plan. This new guidance follows strong advocacy by the four senators, who previously urged the Treasury Department to ensure that CCPF funds can be used to support increased broadband adoption and access, in addition to supporting new broadband deployment.

 

“As your guidance accurately reflects, this provision was drafted in recognition of and with the intent to address the urgent connectivity gaps and challenges that hamper too many Americans, undermining telework, online education, and telehealth efforts – and more recently, undermining vaccination efforts that depend upon access to the internet for public health announcements and registration activities,” wrote the Senators in a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. “Your guidance emphasizes the critical fact that effective utilization of capital investments associated with providing and improving broadband connectivity requires financial support for devices, digital inclusion and skills training, broadband affordability and related ancillary initiatives.”

 

They continued, “In the weeks and months since the American Rescue Plan was enacted, we have each heard from state and local leaders who have expressed great enthusiasm about the prospect of the Capital Projects Fund to enable broadband access for their constituents. While a larger effort to close the broadband gap is necessary – as the Biden Infrastructure Plan makes clear – we are confident that the Capital Projects Fund can address critical connectivity gaps that continue to prevent Americans from fully participating in telework, telehealth, and online education during the pandemic.”


Created through the American Rescue Plan, the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund (CCPF) seeks to address many challenges laid bare by the pandemic, especially in rural America and low- and moderate-income communities, helping to ensure that all communities have access to the high-quality, modern infrastructure needed to thrive, including internet access.

 

The guidance by the Department of the Treasury specifies that eligible projects include those that seek to expand access to broadband through connectivity infrastructure, devices, and equipment. The guidance states:

 

“Capital projects include investments in depreciable assets and the ancillary costs needed to put the capital assets in use. Under the American Rescue Plan, these projects must be critical in nature, providing connectivity for those who lack it. The Capital Projects Fund thus allows for investment in high-quality broadband as well as other connectivity infrastructure, devices, and equipment. In addition to supporting broadband, it also provides flexibility for each state, territory, and Tribal government to make other investments in critical community hubs or other capital assets that provide access jointly to work, education, and health monitoring. All projects must demonstrate that they meet the critical connectivity needs highlighted and amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible applicants will be required to provide a plan describing how they intend to use allocated funds under the Capital Projects Fund consistent with the American Rescue Plan and guidance to be issued by Treasury.”

 

A copy of the letter is available here and below. 

 

The Honorable Janet Yellen

Secretary

United States Department of Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20220

 

Dear Secretary Yellen,

 

We write you to applaud the recent guidance released by the Treasury Department, announcing next steps to implement the Capital Projects Fund that we successfully included in the American Rescue Plan. As your guidance accurately reflects, this provision was drafted in recognition of and with the intent to address the urgent connectivity gaps and challenges that hamper too many Americans, undermining telework, online education, and telehealth efforts – and more recently, undermining vaccination efforts that depend upon access to the internet for public health announcements and registration activities. Your guidance emphasizes the critical fact that effective utilization of capital investments associated with providing and improving broadband connectivity requires financial support for devices, digital inclusion and skills training, broadband affordability and related ancillary initiatives.

 

In the weeks and months since the American Rescue Plan was enacted, we have each heard from state and local leaders who have expressed great enthusiasm about the prospect of the Capital Projects Fund to enable broadband access for their constituents. While a larger effort to close the broadband gap is necessary – as the Biden Infrastructure Plan makes clear – we are confident that the Capital Projects Fund can address critical connectivity gaps that continue to prevent Americans from fully participating in telework, telehealth, and online education during the pandemic.  We believe that the Capital Projects Fund can serve as a bridge towards this larger initiative, particularly in the wake of successful state-led broadband projects deployed in the last year using CARES Act funding and the flexibility to use the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds for broadband. These efforts will need coordination to ensure the best use of funds, but we feel strongly that the Capital Projects Fund will enable states, territories, and Tribes to build on these early efforts.

 

We look forward to the Treasury Department’s future guidance on how states, territories and Tribes may access these critical funds for connectivity investments and the implementation of the Capital Projects Fund. Thank you for your leadership and attention to this important issue.

 

Sincerely,

 

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