Senator Murray Announces $811 Million in Available Funding from Her Landmark Digital Equity Act to Help States and Tribes Close Digital Divide, Nearly $16 Million Expected for WA State

WA State Department of Commerce received a $1.08 million planning grant in December 2022 to develop a statewide digital equity plan—states are now eligible to apply for Capacity Grant funding announced today

Washington state is expected to receive $15,983,291.58 through this latest funding opportunity from the Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program

Murray first authored and introduced the Digital Equity Act in 2019 and got it passed into law as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced an initial $811 million in available funding under the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program to help states and Tribes close the digital divide. The funding comes from Senator Murray’s Digital Equity Act, which was passed into law as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—the Digital Equity Act established and funded the Capacity Grant Program, as well as other important new grant programs to promote digital equity nationwide. Washington state is expected to receive $15,983,291.58 through this latest funding opportunity from the Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program.

In December 2022, Washington state received a $1.08 million planning grant to develop a statewide digital equity plan outlining how the state will promote digital equity, support digital inclusion activities, and build capacity for broadband adoption. Under the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) released today, Washington, as well as other states, can apply for funding from Murray’s Digital Equity Act to begin implementation of their digital equity plans. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) accepted Washington’s Digital Equity plan on March 26, 2024. Washington state’s full Digital Equity Plan can be viewed HERE.

“Access to the internet is downright essential in the 21st century and while we are making huge strides and investments in getting more people connected to high-speed internet, I wrote the Digital Equity Act because once we connect a community to high-speed internet—we need to make sure they can really make the most of that connection,” said Senator Murray. “Today’s announcement will be a gamechanger as we work to close the digital divide in Washington state and across the country. This funding will allow all 50 states to implement the digital equity plans they’ve spent the last year developing—this is another big step toward ensuring that people and communities everywhere can participate in and benefit from an increasingly digital world. Whether it’s helping people access health care online, applying for jobs, or learning new skills—the Digital Equity Act is an investment in our families, our workforce, and our overall competitiveness in a 21st century economy.”

Today’s Notice of Funding Opportunity announces the first funding available through the $1.44 billion Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program. This funding opportunity includes funds appropriated for Fiscal Years 2022-2024. Additional funding opportunities will be available in the future.  Washington state is expected to receive $15,983,291.58 through this latest funding opportunity from the Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program.

Funding Overview for the State Capacity Grant Program 

  • About $760 million is available to 50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico: Each state’s funding allocation, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, was calculated based on a formula defined in the Digital Equity Act and specified in the Notice of Funding Opportunity. The formula takes into account the relative population of the state (50%), the relative size of the covered populations residing in the state (25%), and the comparative lack of availability and adoption of broadband (25%). 
  • About $45 million is available to Native Entities: The Capacity Grant program will make $45 million available on a competitive basis to Native Entities to promote digital inclusion and broadband adoption efforts for their communities. The Digital Equity Act requires that no less than 5% of award funds be available to Tribal governments and Native Entities. The application window will open September 25. This funding is addition to the $3 billion provided for the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.
  • About $8.4 million is available to territories, on a formula basis.

Digital equity is critical to economic growth, job creation, workforce development, educational outcomes, health outcomes, civic and social engagement, and delivery of countless essential services. Senator Murray first introduced the Digital Equity Act in 2019 and worked hard to build a robust coalition of 100+ organizations to secure strong bipartisan consensus and support for her legislation, ultimately passing it as a part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Senator Murray’s Digital Equity Act provided $2.75 billion to establish three federal grant programs, administered by the NTIA, to promote digital equity nationwide by:

  • Building Capacity within States through Formula Grants: Creates a five-year $300 million per year formula grant program for all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to fund the creation and implementation of comprehensive digital equity plans in each State.
  • Spurring Targeted Action through Competitive Grants: Creates a five-year $250 million per year competitive grant program to support digital inclusion projects undertaken by individual groups, coalitions, and/or communities of interest.
  • Supporting Research and Evidence-Based Policymaking: Tasks NTIA with evaluating digital equity projects and providing policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels with detailed information about which projects are most effective.

Digital equity funds can be used in all kinds of ways to support Washington state families and our economy:

  • Workforce: supporting the work of local workforce boards, community and technical colleges, and community-based organizations by increasing access to devices across underserved populations, increasing the digital skills of Washington’s current and future workforce, and by increasing the accessibility of state and local resources to workers.
  • Education: supporting Washington’s public schools, community and technical colleges, and community-based organizations as they work to integrate technology literacy and fluency in their curriculum, reducing barriers and advancing access to technology, including digital devices, internet connection, and digital skills training.
  • Health Care: supporting the Washington Department of Health and the Washington State Health Care Authority in expanding opportunities for Washingtonians to access telehealth services, reducing the need to travel long distances in rural areas for preventative and specialist care. Additionally, the digital equity funds could be used to work with partner organizations to expand the availability and awareness of culturally sensitive and linguistically accessible online healthcare resources and services.
  • And so much more.

Overall, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that Murray helped pass included $65 billion to ensure that every family in America has access to reliable, high speed internet.