Legislation establishes telemedicine and broadband aid for distance learning

A bill was heard in the Senate this week to establish two new grant programs: one to fund the purchase of telemedicine equipment to deal with COVID-19, and one to fund the purchase of distance learning equipment for students without broadband access. Both come at a time when the way we practice medicine and teach our children are rapidly changing in the face of a pandemic. This funding will help ease the transition into these new forms of medicine and education.

The telemedicine grant program will reimburse health care providers that purchase and install equipment in order to provide COVID-19-related health care services. The total amount appropriated to the grant program is $2,000,000 in fiscal year 2020.

The broadband access grant program will reimburse school districts and charter schools for costs incurred to provide wireless or wire-line broadband access to students without proper access for distance learning. Examples of equipment used to provide this access include data cards, USB modems, or other mobile or temporary broadband devices. The total amount appropriated to this program is $8,000,000 in fiscal year 2020. An additional $10,000,000 appropriated for fiscal year 2021 to continue developing broadband access in underserved areas if it’s found to be reimbursable by federal funds.

These grant programs are just one way to demonstrate the Senate DFL’s commitment to keeping Minnesota connected by ensuring all Minnesotans have access to the broadband they need to make their lives easier as we continue to fight this pandemic. (SF 4494)