Biden Proposes Additional $400 Million To USDA Broadband ReConnect Program

Reconnect Program

Pointers at Glance

  • President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2024 budget proposal includes an additional $400 million to the Broadband ReConnect Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which aims to provide loans and grants to deploy broadband in areas with little or no internet connectivity.
  • The program already received a $2 billion boost from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

According to the budget proposal, investing in high-speed internet can create high-paying union jobs and strengthen rural economies, leading to higher property values, increased job and population growth, lower unemployment rates, and new business formation. Moreover, reliable internet is crucial for rural Americans to access healthcare services through telehealth.

Since 2019, the ReConnect program has distributed funding through three award rounds, with more than $3.1 billion in investments. Last year, the USDA solicited applications for a fourth funding round and was expected to award more than $1.1 billion in additional support sometime this year.

ReConnect Program Is Needed In Rural Communities

USDA Rural Development spokesperson revealed that the ReConnect program has “been continuously oversubscribed since its inception” and that demand for support from the program exceeds the amount of money available. The spokesperson added, “This points to just how much people in rural communities need this type of assistance.”

Congress has the final say over spending, but Biden‘s budget proposal indicates his prioritization of broadband, particularly rural broadband. Even if ReConnect doesn’t get funding through the budget, Congress ultimately passes another potential vehicle that could deliver an influx of cash for the program: the 2023 Farm Bill.

The Farm Bill, which is up for renewal in the second half of this year, could provide more funding opportunities for the ReConnect program. Congress has until October 1 to pass budget legislation, and the final decision on ReConnect’s funding will be determined in the upcoming months.