North Carolina still has $30 million to spend on broadband expansion to rural areas under a grant received via the CARES Act, and time is running out. Governing reported that the CARES Act funds supplement the Growing Rural Economies through Access to Technology (GREAT) grant program, and officials must spend the money by December 30.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s office intends to move forward with the grant money and broadband expansion. Still, some Republican lawmakers disagree over whether the state can use funds in time under federal rules. According to Cooper, expanding high-speed internet to rural areas is one of his priorities, even though funds are currently on hold.
Cooper added that although his administration wants to move forward with the GREAT grants program, the U.S. Treasury Department regulations on investing CARES Act money are “continuing to evolve and change.” Some are concerned that the federal government will repeal funds if not spent, reported Governing.
Cooper added, “This money was halted for the time being because the interpretation was it violated Treasury [regulations]. We’re working closely with legislators, members of Congress, the U.S. Treasury — we want to get funding to rural broadband areas, and I’m going to keep fighting for that, it’s absolutely critical.”
Republican Sen. Jim Perry said the grant situation is frustrating. Cooper’s administration is “trying to do their job right, and the directions on it [CARES Act], the guidance have been somewhat vague.” He added that officials might find answers in documentation from broadband companies related to expansion and the quickly approaching deadline to spend CARES Act funds.