LITTLE ROCK — Thirty grants of up to $75,000 each are available to help rural Arkansas communities apply for federal grants and loans to make broadband accessible to their residents.

The “Rural Broadband I.D. Expenses Trust Fund Grant,” sponsored by state Sen. Missy Irvin, is funded by the state’s Restricted Reserve Fund and federal coronavirus aid allocated by the Arkansas Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act Steering Committee created by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

The $2 million broadband program is managed by the Institute for Digital Health & Innovation at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Visit https://idhi.uams.edu/rural-broadband-grant to apply and for more information about the program.

Irvin, from Mountain View, has said COVID-19 highlighted the critical need for broadband in rural Arkansas.

“We are grateful to Senator Irvin for her leadership on this issue,” said Joseph Sanford, M.D., interim director of the UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. “Thanks to her efforts and the support of the governor and the Legislature, we now have an exciting program that can help grow internet access in rural Arkansas. As COVID-19 changes the ways in which we work and learn remotely, high-quality data infrastructure is increasingly vital to our economy, access to health care, and overall quality of life.”

The grants are available to help cities, incorporated towns, counties and unincorporated communities conduct broadband due-diligence business studies. The studies are required in federal grant and loan applications for broadband infrastructure. Communities can use their broadband due-diligence business studies to apply for funding from:

The Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program (ReConnect)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Bill; and

Other federal grants or loans for broadband development programs.

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