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GOP leaders, Cooper reach agreement on NC broadband money

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican legislative leaders said on Thursday they’ve found a solution to address the potential loss of $30 million in federal coronavirus relief funds that lawmakers earmarked for rural broadband projects.

A state law approved in September had funneled the money to a broadband program. But Cooper’s administration and GOP lawmakers disagreed on whether federal guidance required the money be spent by Dec. 30.

Under the announced agreement, Cooper will redirect the $30 million to other federal COVID-19 relief qualifying expenses that would have otherwise been paid for with state government operating funds. The legislature, in turn, will vote in early 2021 to spend $30 million in state funds for the rural broadband initiative called the GREAT program.

In a news release, Cooper, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger all highlighted the importance of rural broadband access. “I appreciate legislative leaders and my budget staff ensuring that funds can be used to expand internet access in North Carolina,” Cooper said.

Cooper’s budget office will review program grant applications and prepare contracts in preparation for new legislative action, the release said, so any delays in awards will be negligible.

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