Missouri’s governor announced a $50 million dollar project to expand broadband across the state, during a Thursday media briefing at the Statehouse in Jefferson City.
The expansion will include support for telehealth and libraries. Governor Mike Parson says the money will come from federal CARES Act funding. He says broadband is critical for Missourians.
“The digital divide in rural Missouri limits growth in many sectors of our economy, including education, workforce development, health care, business retention and attractions, just to name a few,” Parson says.
Parson says the project earmarks $20 million to establish a reimbursement program for broadband providers, to assist them with construction costs for new broadband expansion to households with students or vulnerable populations.
The governor was joined at the briefing by state Department of Economic Development (DED) Director Rob Dixon and state broadband development office director Tim Arbeiter. Arbeiter’s office is within DED.
Director Dixon says the project to expand broadband will help thousands of Missourians go to school, work and to the doctor. He tells Capitol reporters that today, “broadband internet is the backbone of a resilient economy.”
“Some 300,000 households, 195,000 k-12 students and 54,000 businesses and farms lack high-speed internet access,” says Dixon.
Under the project, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will provide $10 million to local education agencies, to seek reimbursement for eligible costs to increase student connectivity.
Arbeiter says the project will also provide $5.25 million for telehealth.
“It was estimated just over 90,000 Missouri citizens could not access medical care during this time. It’s a continued issue that, again as we faced with the pandemic, facilities closed down,” Arbeiter says.
The $5.25 million will support connectivity for telehealth services for vulnerable populations. The state will partner with the Missouri Telehealth Network at Mizzou to secure about 12,000 hotspots for the state’s 29 federally qualified health centers and the 26 community mental health centers.
Governor Parson traveled to mid-Missouri’s Tipton earlier in the day, to sign legislation extending Missouri’s broadband grant program through 2027. Missouri’s broadband internet grant program is for unserved and underserved areas in the state.
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