By state Rep. Beth Griffin, of Mattawan
Two months have passed since schools, businesses and non-emergency health clinics across Michigan shut their doors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As educators, employers and physicians were forced to adapt to virtual settings to practice social distancing, it became abundantly clear how crucial internet access is.
While the abnormally high demand for internet has put more pressure on our broadband infrastructure, it has also exposed the digital divide between our state’s urban and rural communities. There are thousands of Southwest Michigan residents with little to no access to broadband services, however, recent funding has been awarded to Van Buren and Allegan counties to help address this issue.
Southwest Michigan Communications Inc. has recently received $10.7 million in a loan/grant combination to deploy Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband services to Van Buren and Allegan counties. The initiative is part of the USDA’s ReConnect Pilot Program.
The project will extend broadband availability to 22 farms, 19 businesses, and 7,700 residents spread over 100 square miles of Southwest Michigan.
The internet is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity. Our children are remote learning, many workers and job providers are conducting business from home, and for many patients, the only way to receive the routine and preventative health care they need is via telehealth.
The integral resources provided by the grant funding will help connect thousands of people in our most rural communities with internet access. To learn more about ReConnect Program eligibility, technical assistance, and recent announcements, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.
Connection to the world outside our homes has become vital to our way of life, and I will keep working to make sure Southwest Michigan families have access to reliable, high-speed internet.
Government was meant to be of the people, not one person – and the Michigan Supreme Court rightfully ruled to restore the voice of Southwest Michigan families by confirming that our state’s COVID-19 response needs to be a collaborative effort.
Rep. Beth Griffin, of Mattawan, today helped announce a plan giving the people of Michigan more certainty and control in these challenging times – allowing for data-driven COVID-19 responses that reflect conditions in local communities.
State Rep. Beth Griffin and the Michigan House earlier this month approved several measures to continue protecting and helping Southwest Michigan families during the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic, including extending unemployment benefits for Michigan’s hardworking employees who were laid off through no fault of their own.
“It’s unacceptable that our seniors have not been protected the way they deserve from the start,” said Griffin, of Mattawan. “That’s why I’m fighting for major changes to the previous nursing home mandates. Our seniors and their loved ones deserve much better.