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U.S. Rep. Bustos, Ag secretary announce rural broadband grants

GENESEO - Congresswoman Cheri Bustos joined U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Friday to announce the availability of $1.15 billion in loans and grants to expand broadband availability in rural areas through the ReConnect Program.

“In the district I serve, one in four families lack access to high-speed internet. This has a significant impact on our schools, health care facilities and small businesses across Northwest and Central Illinois,” Bustos said. “It was an honor to join Secretary Vilsack today to announce that funding I voted for in FY 2021 appropriations is headed out the door to help connect our rural communities with much-needed broadband access.”

Bustos said the measure moves forward President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda by prioritizing economic growth in rural America and investing in the middle class.

Beginning on Nov. 24, the USDA will begin accepting applications for up to $1.15 billion through the ReConnect program. The Broadband ReConnect Program furnishes loans and grants to provide funds for the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas.

Bustos is a co-chair of the New Democrat Coalition Rural Reinvestment Task Force and a member of the House Task Force on Rural Broadband.