State panel greenlights American Rescue Plan funds for 14 broadband projects

The Arkansas Department of Commerce on Friday won the Legislative Council’s approval to use $93.8 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds for 14 grants for broadband projects. Two projects each in Montgomery and Pulaski counties and one apiece in Boone, Cleburne, Cross, Faulkner, Franklin, Garland, Jackson, Logan, Searcy and St. Francis counties.

The council also approved the Administrative Office of the Court’s request to use $20 million of the federal funds to help finance a new case management system.

A third request was approved as well. The request, made by the state Department of Finance and Administration, was to use $6.25 million for the opening of Sevier County Medical Center.

Arkansas was allocated about $150.2 million for broadband projects, with the balance to be used for broadband administrative expenses through 2026, state Department of Commerce Secretary Mike Preston said in a letter to steering committee Chairman Larry Walther.

The Arkansas Rural Connect broadband grant program has handed out $396.5 million in grants to 163 projects across the state so far, according to Chelsea O’Kelley, a spokesman for the state Department of Commerce’s Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

Read the full article from the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette here.