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Senator Edwards Secures Broadband Funding for Project in Buncombe and Transylvania Counties

French Broad Electric Membership Corp. and Citizens Telephone Co. to receive grant to expand broadband access after legislature votes on funding early next year

Sen. Edwards helped negotiate deal on funding after Cooper Admin put it on hold

RALEIGH, N.C. – Senator Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson) announced that French Broad Electric Membership Corporation in Buncombe County and Citizens Telephone Company in Transylvania County would receive a GREAT grant to expand rural broadband access in the western North Carolina community.

The announcement comes days after Sen. Edwards played a key role in negotiating a final deal on the GREAT rural broadband program grants after the Cooper Administration put the funding on hold.

Sen. Edwards said, "The pandemic has placed a huge spotlight on the need for better broadband access. More than ever, families are relying on telehealth and virtual learning to help them manage their lives. My role is to help get broadband grant funding to our community."

In September, the legislature passed, and Gov. Cooper signed, legislation to allocate $30 million in federal CARES Act relief funding to North Carolina's GREAT program, which provides grants to expand rural broadband access.

U.S. Treasury guidance jeopardized the funding eligibility because of questions about whether the CARES Act-funded rural broadband projects must be complete before a Dec. 30 deadline. The legislative and executive branches successfully negotiated a solution to avoid potential issues associated with the risk of ineligibility.

As part of the deal, the executive branch will use the flexibility afforded by state law to redirect the $30 million previously allocated to the GREAT program to other eligible expenses for which state General Fund dollars would have been used. The legislature will then vote on a bill early next year to appropriate the newly freed up $30 million from the General Fund to the GREAT program.

Until the legislature formally appropriates the $30 million early next year, the Office of State Budget and Management will proceed with the administrative process of executing contracts and preparing to disburse the funds to the companies receiving the grants.