The latest update on California state budget action impacting California’s rural counties.

Broadband Infrastructure

The State Budget Package appropriates a total of $6 billion for investments in broadband infrastructure, including:

  • $3.25 billion into a statewide open-access middle mile network;
  • $2 billion ($1 billion for rural communities) for last mile infrastructure; and,
  • $750 million in a loan- loss reserve account that can be leveraged by local agencies, tribal governments, and nonprofits for broadband projects.

Additionally, Senate Bill 156 makes numerous changes to current law that will expedite broadband deployment in RCRC member counties, including:

  • Authorizes counties to own, operate, and maintain broadband facilities and services;
  • Requires projects funded by the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to provide connection speeds of at least 100 mbps downstream and 20 mbps upstream; and,
  • Defines unserved areas eligible for CASF funded programs as those without access to internet connectivity at 25 mbps/3mbps, and prioritizes areas that have less than 10mbps/1mbps.

On Thursday, the State Legislature passed SB 156 thereby establishing the largest investment in public broadband infrastructure in the country. RCRC partnered with a number of organizations in pursuing the passage of this bill in a collective effort to close the digital divide. RCRC specifically applauds the work of assembly members and senators representing rural areas of the state in championing this monumental effort. RCRC’s full press release can be accessed here.

Housing and Homelessness

The State Budget Package includes increased spending for a myriad of programs to end homelessness, including $2 billion over the next two years for the Homeless Housing, Assistance, and Prevention Program (HHAPP). Specifically, Assembly Bill 140 allocates $1 billion for Round 3 HHAPP funding in the 2021-22 fiscal year, and $1 billion for Round 4 in the 2022-23 fiscal year.

Additionally, AB 140 establishes the Family Homelessness Challenge Grants and Technical Assistance program to provide one-time grants and technical assistance to local jurisdictions to assist efforts to end homelessness and provides additional funding for Project Homekey for the acquisition, rehabilitation, and conversion of hotels, motels, commercial properties, and other non-housing properties for non-congregate housing for homeless individuals.

The State Budget Package also extends the Infill Infrastructure Grant Program of 2019 and allocates an additional $250 million to the program, with $90 million set aside for over-the-counter grants for small jurisdictions under the program.