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broadband kids 120320BUNKER HILL – State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) announced an open application period for the second round of Connect Illinois broadband grants to improve access to quality broadband service Downstate.

Manar, who serves as a chief budget negotiator for the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus and chairs the Senate Appropriations II Committee, played an instrumental role in this program’s inclusion in the state budget.

“We made broadband expansion a part of the Rebuild Illinois plan because we were fully aware of the glaring gap in access to quality broadband services for many Downstaters,” Manar said. “The COVID-19 pandemic shed light on these already existing problems and made them exponentially worse.”

With a $4.2 million broadband expansion grant to Staunton-based Madison Communications, the first round of Connect Illinois grants jumpstarted the process of providing improved access to high-speed internet for approximately 9,283 businesses, farms, households, and other institutions in Macoupin and Madison Counties. This was one of 28 projects that supported over 26,000 new or improved connections throughout the state.

The second round of Connect Illinois grants will allow for up to $5 million per project and calls for a matching component, which requires companies to dedicate funding that will accelerate the delivery of broadband investments.

“We continue to prioritize Connect Illinois because we recognize that reliable internet service is a crucial part of our impending economic recovery and will serve as a solid foundation for small business growth, successful school districts, and top tier hospitals,” Manar said.

Funding for the Connect Illinois program is made possible through Rebuild Illinois, the state’s historic, bipartisan $45 billion statewide construction program, which dedicates $420 million to broadband infrastructure.

The application can be found on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s website and will remain open through February 2021.