Last Updated on December 11, 2020 3:40 pm
Raleigh, N.C. — Sen. Ballard, along with her colleagues in the legislature, reached a deal with Gov. Roy Cooper to ensure $30 million is allocated as promised to the GREAT rural broadband program.
Sen. Ballard (R-Watauga), said “It has never been more important to have dependable internet access, most of all for students forced to go virtual and for those who are working from home. I am excited – and relieved – to have been a part of the efforts in reaching a bipartisan solution in ensuring continued funding for the GREAT program.”
In September, the legislature passed, and Gov. Cooper signed, legislation to allocate $30 million in federal CARES Act relief funding to North Carolina's GREAT program, which provides grants to expand rural broadband access.
U.S. Treasury guidance jeopardized the eligibility of the funding because of questions about whether the CARES Act-funded rural broadband projects must be complete before a Dec. 30 deadline.
To avoid potential issues associated with the risk of ineligibility, the legislative and executive branches successfully negotiated a solution. Sen. Ballard played a key role in the negotiations.
The executive branch will use the flexibility afforded by state law to redirect the $30 million previously allocated to the GREAT program to other eligible expenses for which state General Fund dollars would have been used.
The legislature will then vote on a bill early next year to appropriate the newly freed up $30 million from the General Fund to the GREAT program.
Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said, “I appreciate the work Sen. Ballard put in on behalf of her constituents. Access to high-speed, reliable internet remains a top priority for the General Assembly and this deal signals a shared priority between the legislature and the Governor. For the sake of our rural residents, we must continue to work collaboratively on this issue.”
Until the legislature formally appropriates the $30 million early next year, the Office of State Budget and Management will proceed with the administrative process of reviewing grant applications from providers and preparing contracts. That process generally takes several weeks anyway, so the time delay in awarding broadband grant under this new plan will be negligible.