NM Delegation Hails $1.5 Million CARES Grant to Connect Rural Communities to Broadband to Support Education and Economic Recovery During COVID-19 Pandemic
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) hailed a $1.5 million award from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to the New Mexico Department of Information Technology (DoIT) to finance broadband connections in rural areas. The grant comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that the delegation voted to pass in March.
DoIt will use the funds to provide technical assistance to local and Tribal governments in rural areas of the state to connect their communities to broadband. Internet access is a critical component of the state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, as broadband will facilitate telework, distance learning and telehealth services. The New Mexico delegation sent a letter of support to EDA to reinforce the state’s strong candidacy for the grant funding.
“Affordable and accessible broadband internet is fundamental to economic growth, health care delivery, and education and is essential for success in today’s society,” said Udall, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Broadband Caucus. “And broadband internet is more critical than ever for Tribes and rural communities in New Mexico as we all do our part to slow the spread of coronavirus. I have fought hard to provide the broadband funding Tribes and New Mexico communities need, and will continue to work toward universal internet connectivity in New Mexico and the United States. That’s also why I pushed for economic recovery and broadband funding in the CARES Act, and I will be working hard to make sure that we give all New Mexicans the resources they need to stay connected not only during this challenging time but also to build the long-term broadband infrastructure for the future.”
“Tribal and rural communities dealt with the struggles of limited or no broadband access long-before the pandemic,” said Heinrich. “That is why it has been a mission of mine to ensure that Indian Country and communities across New Mexico have the assistance they need to access funding and infrastructure opportunities that connect them to broadband. I am proud to support this funding that we secured in the CARES Act, but recognize that the job is not over. I will keep fighting to increase internet access that connects tribal and rural communities with educational, health, and career-related resources and lays the foundation for a strong economic recovery.
“In New Mexico, less than half of rural New Mexicans have access to high-speed, fixed broadband, and this disparity is even greater in Tribal communities. In the House, I’ve been fighting for broadband investments to connect New Mexicans to new opportunities and public health, education, and small business resources that are especially important during this pandemic,” said Luján, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “I was proud to vote for the CARES Act that included these broadband investments, and I’ll continue fighting to bridge the digital divide for rural and Tribal communities.”
“Everyone should have access to broadband internet for school, work, and health care, but New Mexico’s rural areas and Tribal communities often lack the infrastructure required to get an internet connection,” said Haaland, who is the lead on the Broadband for All Resolution. “I’m happy to announce that the funding the delegation included in the CARES Act to increase access to broadband internet and build up long-term solutions for connectivity in New Mexico is coming to our communities. Now, Tribes and rural communities will be on the way to connecting to distance learning, telework, and virtual medical appointments to stay safe and productive during the pandemic.”
“As families across New Mexico continue to face challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, good, reliable internet is a crucial tool to narrow disparities between urban, rural, and tribal communities. I voted for the bipartisan CARES Act to help meet this need, and this investment is a critical step towards rebuilding New Mexico’s economy, connecting patients to telemedicine services, and ensuring students – regardless of their zip code – don’t fall behind. I’m continuing to work with my colleagues to pass bipartisan relief and will fight for the resources southern and central New Mexico need to stay connected,” said Torres Small.
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