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New Hampshire to Funnel $50M Toward Broadband Expansion

The goal of the program, Gov. Chris Sununu said, is to connect homes and businesses that still don't have access to reliable Internet. Schools, libraries and other places where Internet use is essential will be included.

by Mia Summerson, The Keene Sentinel / June 12, 2020
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(TNS) — Gov. Chris Sununu has announced $50 million in funding for rural broadband and $35 million for people facing housing insecurity with money from the CARES Act.

During a Thursday news conference, the governor said the federal funding will also go to private institutions of higher learning, and homeless shelters. Sununu said the new programs are designed to take care of issues that had not been addressed by previous initiatives.

"[The CARES Act money] is really designed to get out and really provide some relief to folks that have been affected by COVID, be they businesses or non-profits," Sununu said. "Areas where we clearly need to make investments to help make sure that we're closing those gaps that may have either been exacerbated by, or made more problematic through, the COVID crisis."

After this round of funding, Sununu said the state will have approximately $250 million to $300 million left from its portion of the CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion federal relief package passed in late March to offset the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. He added that it may be slightly more than that, as some funds, like those allowing the state to provide stipends to front-line workers in Medicaid-funded facilities, have not been spent as much as expected.

The goal of the broadband program, Sununu said, is to connect "the last mile"; the homes and businesses that still don't have access to reliable Internet. He also said that schools, libraries and other places where Internet use is essential, will be included.

Sununu also announced a $35 million fund to help those struggling with rent payments as a result of the pandemic. He said the program will have to different components.

"The first is one-time grants for households that have suffered a limited, short-term loss of household income or increased expenses that obviously threaten the family's ability to pay bills and rent," he said. "The second is a short-term rental assistance program, and the program is really designed to provide an off-ramp as we lift a moratorium on evictions."

He added that the eviction moratorium will expire July 1. The state will also lengthen the usually seven-day eviction period to 30 days to allow tenants more time to work out payment plans with their landlords.

Other funding programs announced on Thursday include $15 million for homeless shelters, $10 million to the state's smaller private universities (which Sununu defined as institutions with endowments less than $3 million) and a $2 million contract with chambers of commerce to perform marketing and data collection functions to help the state better connect with businesses on a local level.

©2020 The Keene Sentinel (Keene, N.H.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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