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Federal Government Agencies Provide Broadband and Coronavirus Updates, Including Telemedicine, for Western Region

David Jelke

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USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Rural Development Bette Brand

April 22, 2020— Executives in major federal agencies such as the Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency and Small Business Administration provided updates on the economies and coronavirus grant programs for rural states on a webinar hosted by The Western Governors’ Association on Monday, April 13.

Below is a list of their updates on measures relating to broadband, rural economics, and the coronavirus in Region 8 (see map above), the upper central portion of the Western United States.

USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Rural Development Bette Brand:

  • Announced an additional $25 million available for distance learning and telemedicine grants for Region 8
  • Said that be the hardest thing to do once people come out of quarantine will be “restarting the rural economy”
  • Conveyed the creativity of small business owners, such as one Coloradan distiller who “started making hand sanitizers instead of spirits”

HHS Regional Director Susan Beckman:

  • Announced that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services delivered nearly $34 billion in the past week to healthcare providers on the frontlines of the virus
  • “Sometimes” in Region 8 “we have citizens driving 5 hours to see a doctor”
  • Said “it’s very important” that the infrastructure spending on rural areas “isn’t lessened” as we go on the road to recovery

HUD Regional Administrator Evelyn Lim:

  • Announced $12.4 billion in grants going to HUD nationally and $25 million going to tribal community in Region 8
  • Announced a 120-day period to prevent landlords from evicting residents
  • Said “Homeless service providers are really on the front lines” and “really need the PPE” to provide for their local population

SBA Regional Administrator Dan Nordberg:

  • Announced the Payroll Protection Program, a $349 billion loan program
  • “The gig economy was taken into account” for this program

EPA Regional Director Greg Sopkin:

  • “Expedited the approval of over 350 disinfectants” that can be used to kill COVID-19
  • “The virus has not been detected in drinking water”

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