The Washington Public Works Board has begun accepting applications for a total of $15.8 million in funding for rural broadband. Up to $10,950,072 is available to be awarded in the form of loans and $4,844,547 is available to award as grant funding.
Eligible applicants include local governments, tribes, non-profit organizations, cooperative associations, multiparty entities, limited liability corporations and incorporated businesses or partnerships. Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. on January 4.
Applications will be approved based on a scoring system that will award up to 100 points per project.
Up to 30 points will be awarded based on need, goals and impact. Up to 25 points will be awarded based on outreach, engagement and equity. And up to 45 points will be awarded for feasibility and readiness.
Applicants will be divided into three categories based on the county to be served, with different rules for each category. The three categories are non-distressed counties, distressed counties and severely distressed counties.
Distressed counties are defined as projects in rural counties and/or what the state calls Indian Country. Severely distressed counties are rural counties that have an unemployment rate at least 20% above the state average for the previous three years and a median household income that is less than 75% of the state median for the previous three years.
The maximum award for distressed or severely distressed counties is $5 million and applicants are required to contribute 10% of project costs. For these counties, the state intends to award grants covering 30% of remaining project costs in the form of grants and 70% of those costs in the form of loans.
The interest rate for loans for distressed counties will be .85%. The rate for severely distressed counties will be .42%.
The maximum award that will be made for non-distressed counties is $2 million. The applicant must provide 50% of total project costs. Loans for non-distressed counties will have an interest rate of 1.69%.
All loans are for 15 years.
The program guidelines do not indicate whether awards for non-distressed counties will be in the form of grants or loans. But with just over $4.8 million available for grants, and considering that rules call for distressed and non-distressed counties to get some funding in the form of grants, it appears that applicants for non-distressed counties are most likely to get funding in the form of a loan.
The state did not immediately reply to a request for clarification about that.
The following counties are considered distressed based on Washington’s definition:
- Grays Harbor
- San Juan
- Walla Wall
Severely distressed counties include:
- Pend Oreille
Additional information about Washington broadband, including links to state resources and previous Telecompetitor coverage, can be found on the Broadband Nation webpage for the state.