The USDA is extending the ReConnect application deadline again, just a little over two weeks after first extending it to March 31st. The ReConnect program application deadline is now midnight on April 15th, based on the time zone of the applicant.
The original deadline for phase II of the program, which will award $550 million for rural broadband support was March 16th. As of the time this post was published, USDA did not offer an explanation for the second extension.
“This action is being taken by the Agency to ensure a successful round of funding under the ReConnect Program,” states the Federal Register entry announcing the extension.
ReConnect Program Application Deadline
The second phase of the program will offer $550 million in the form of grants and loans for the expansion of rural broadband. Applicants can apply for up to $200 million for grants, up to $200 million for 50/50 grant/loan combinations, and up to $200 million for low-interest loans.
Phase I of the program is winding down, having already awarded $621 million (as of today) to 70 projects in 31 states and territories. USDA reports this funding will impact 157K households throughout rural America. The program received 146 applications between May 31, 2019, and July 12, 2019, requesting $1.4 billion for phase I of the program.
The recent $2 trillion CARES Act which offers financial support and stimulus in response to the COVID-19 health pandemic includes an additional $100 million for the ReConnect program. This latest funding aims to “…expand access to broadband in rural America for educational purposes, business, and access to critical telehealth services,” according to a USDA press release.