$1.7M grant aims to increase internet access | News, Sports, Jobs

WASHINGTON — A million-dollar federal grant to improve Internet connectivity goes to an Elkins agency.

US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo announced that the Department’s Economic Development Agency is awarding a $1.7 million grant to Elkins’ Woodlands Development Group, Inc. to help grow businesses and jobs by improving Internet connectivity in underserved communities to support communities.

The grant, funded by the American Rescue Plan and the EDA’s $300 million Coal Communities Commitment, will support the laying of 58 miles of air fiber in underserved communities in Randolph and Tucker counties, a region impacted by declining coal use .

The EDA investment will be matched with $2.5 million in other federal funds and is expected to create 75 jobs, sustain 82 jobs and generate $13.8 million in private investment, according to the grantee’s estimates.

“Access to affordable, reliable broadband is critical to the success and growth of our communities throughout West Virginia. Therefore, I am pleased that the EDA is supporting the Woodlands Development Group’s efforts to improve connectivity in Randolph and Tucker counties.” said Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va. “West Virginia continues to see the benefits of the American Rescue Plan’s important investments that spur economic development and create high-paying, long-term jobs, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact this funding has on our communities.”

“I am pleased to see that Randolph County has received this EDA grant to support business and employment growth in Elkins,” Congressman Alex Mooney, RW.Va. said. “The installation of underground fiber optic cables is critical to the competitive future of rural communities. This funding will help accelerate high-speed Internet access and spur job creation in Randolph and Tucker counties.”

This project is funded under EDA’s American Rescue Plan Economic Adjustment Assistance program, which provides $500 million in Economic Adjustment Assistance grants to American communities. The Economic Adjustment Support Program is EDA’s most flexible program, and grants awarded under this program will help hundreds of communities across the country through construction or non-construction projects tailored to local needs, design, build, to innovate and get people back to work.

“President Biden is committed to using the full power of the federal government to ensure our nation not only recovers from this pandemic, but builds a better America for the future.” said Trade Secretary Gina Raimondo. “This award reaffirms the President’s commitment to improving Internet access in the United States and lays a strong foundation for the critical investments we will make to build high-speed Internet through the bipartisan Infrastructure Act.”

“The Economic Development Administration plays an important role in supporting community economic development strategies aimed at promoting recovery and response to the coronavirus,” said Deputy Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo. “This investment will improve the connectivity of small businesses, remote students, underserved residents and remote workers in Randolph and Tucker counties while helping the region transition from a coal-centric economy.”

EDA’s Coal Communities Commitment provides $300 million of EDA’s $3 billion American Rescue Plan funding to help coal communities recover from the pandemic and help them find new jobs and opportunities to create, including through the creation or expansion of a new industrial sector. Specifically, EDA has committed $100 million of its Build Back Better Regional Challenge funds and $200 million of its Economic Adjustment Assistance funds to directly support coal communities. Effective May 26, the EDA has officially closed all of its American Rescue Plan programs to applications.

The $3 billion in program funding will be awarded on a rolling basis through September 30th.

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