In its second round of American Rescue Plan Act funding allocations the Pierce County Council dedicated $15 million to support expansion of broadband services in the county’s underserved areas.
A Council-requested broadband access evaluation found gaps in the county’s rural areas and in some areas between cities. With Tuesday’s allocation the county is poised to address these gaps while improving infrastructure.
“In this economy, hi-speed broadband has become a necessity, but too many people lack access to this public good. The bold investment we’re making today will connect these communities with opportunities and build the backbone for future investments,” said Pierce County Council Chair Derek Young.
The funds will be used to support partnerships, act as seed money and match grant requests to improve services to underserved areas. While Pierce County does not provide broadband services, it manages public rights-of-way, grants franchises to telecommunication providers to operate in the right-of-way and has local building and zoning code authority related to permitting of certain types of facilities.
Additional allocations approved by Council July 6 included $8 million to support small business. Council committed $4 million for an Innovation Grants program to help small businesses adapt to changing market conditions, and $4 million for a Professional Services program to offer access to bookkeeping, tax and legal advice and graphic design and web-based services.
Only businesses in unincorporated Pierce County are eligible. The one-time grants are not to exceed $20,000 and require a match.
Pierce County’s Economic Development Department will define the parameters of both programs. A details around eligibility and how to apply will be shared once the programs are operational.
“As we reopen our economy, many businesses across Pierce County still face impacts from the prolonged economic uncertainty, broken supply chains and changing markets. This funding supports entrepreneurial innovation and investment to stabilize businesses and prepare them for success,” said Councilmember Marty Campbell, who proposed the legislation to support small business.
Other allocations approved by Council include:
- $5 million for housing and homelessness to support acquisition of hotel/motel space in Tacoma.
- $1 million for the Mustard Seed Project to support services to seniors on the Key Peninsula.
- $500,000 for a centralized agricultural facility.
The approved ordinance now goes to Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier for signature.
Under the American Rescue Plan Act Pierce County will receive nearly $175 million. Council previously dedicated $50.5 million this spring to address emergent needs. Roughly $8.6 million remains unspent of the initial $88 million the county received.