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Missouri schools, libraries awarded $57M in federal connectivity funds

More than $57 million is on its way to connect Missouri schools and libraries to the internet through the latest round of funding from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). 

The grants were part of the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which doled out more than $48 million to applicants across the Show-Me State last month. The FCC awarded funds to reimburse districts and libraries across the country for broadband equipment and internet-connected devices to support virtual learning in the wake of COVID-19

“Far too many students lack the connections they need to get online and stay connected to their teachers,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said. “Thankfully, Congress gave us the tools through this program to make a real difference in our communities as we work to close the homework gap and help schools and libraries engage in online learning.” 

Most larger applicants in Missouri were approved for more than $100,000, while many smaller communities requested grants exceeding $1,000. 

Jefferson City School District was awarded $336,770, Kirkwood School District was approved for $210,000, and the Kansas City Public Library received $107,100. 

More than 500 applicants across Missouri have been approved for grants through this program so far. 

Around 6.8 million connected devices and 3.5 million broadband connections have been committed nationwide through the program so far. The FCC estimated the funds would impact more than 10 million students across the country. 

The program amounted to $7.17 billion funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The application window closed in October. 

Missouri hospitals are also benefiting from FCC technology grants: SSM Health St. Louis, the Health Care Collaborative of Rural Missouri, Swope Health Services, and Mercy Health St. Louis were all awarded grants through the commission’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program over the past few months. 

Federal broadband funds are being used by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to improve students’ distance learning capabilities, while the Missouri Association of Councils of Government (MACOG) will handle a $600,000 investment from the U.S. Department of Commerce. 

The state also committed $400 million in ARPA funds to expand broadband, said to be the largest in Missouri’s history

The digital divide and its impact on students drew the attention of the House Special Interim Committee on Broadband Development this year. The committee is considering ways to invest the influx of funds into Missouri’s network with input from educators, advocacy groups, and service providers and will submit a report with proposals to the General Assembly at the end of the year.