The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development announced that the agency has extended the deadline for ReConnect Pilot Program applications to April 15.
“In light of the COVID-19 National Emergency, USDA is extending the application deadline for round two of ReConnect Pilot Program funding to give rural businesses, cooperatives, and communities extra time to apply for this critical assistance that will help bring high-speed broadband connectivity to rural communities,” Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand said.
Josué E, Rivera, USDA Rural Development State Director for Puerto Rico said there is $200 million available nationwide through this program, which is “essential to jumpstart Puerto Rico’s economy.”
In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural areas. On Dec. 13, 2018, the agency announced how the loans and grants will be awarded to help build broadband infrastructure.
USDA received 146 applications between May 31, 2019, and July 12, 2019, requesting $1.4 billion in funding across all three ReConnect Program funding products: 100% loan, 100% grant, and loan-grant combinations. USDA is reviewing applications and announcing approved projects on a rolling basis. Additional investments in all three categories will be made in the coming weeks, she said.
Meanwhile, Brand added that the USDA is granting lenders a temporary exception to offer payment deferrals for agency-guaranteed loan programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Effective immediately until Sept. 30, 2020, lenders may offer 180-day loan payment deferrals without prior agency approval for Business and Industry Loan Guarantees, Rural Energy for America Program Loan Guarantees, Community Facilities Loan Guarantees, and Water and Waste Disposal Loan Guarantees.