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State lawmakers could vote on broadband, other funds next week

Lawmakers could decide next week on how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars from the...
Lawmakers could decide next week on how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan. A good chunk could go to expanding broadband around the state.(WBRC)
Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 10:47 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Lawmakers could decide next week on how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan. A good chunk could go to expanding broadband around the state.

Two bills have passed through committees could allocate more than $270 million for broadband projects and infrastructure that supports it.

Making broadband accessible to everyone is something advocates have been pushing for, for years. State leaders hope to use the money from the American Rescue plan to do some of that.

Michelle Roth, the executive director of the Alabama Cable and Broadband Association, works closely with lawmakers on broadband efforts. She says during the pandemic, everyone realized more than ever just how important having internet is for not only schools but for jobs and almost everything else.

Roth is hoping lawmakers make the decision to spend this money the right way.

“We use it for those who need it most. That we can raise the playing field for everyone together to create that equity between education, economic development and quality of life. We feel confident that the state will use this money wisely,” Roth said.

Roth says there is also going to be an emphasis on digital access and literacy for those who may have availability to the internet but don’t have the resources or understanding of how to use it.

The bills that passed through the committees allocated:

  • $276,887,857 for broadband
  • $225 million for water and sewer projects
  • $116,796,346 for health care involving hospitals, assisted living, mental health and veteran homes
  • $5 million for telemedicine
  • $30 million for rural hospital assistance grants
  • $20 million for volunteer fire and emergency management services
  • $11 million for county jail reimbursement.

We’re told lawmakers could vote on the funds next Tuesday.

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