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PRINTER'S NO. 968
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
HOUSE BILL
No.
956
Session of
2021
INTRODUCED BY ORTITAY, SNYDER, STAMBAUGH, HILL-EVANS, IRVIN,
SMITH, CIRESI, RAPP AND WHEELAND, MARCH 17, 2021
REFERRED TO COMMITTEE ON CONSUMER AFFAIRS, MARCH 17, 2021
AN ACT
Amending the act of April 9, 1929 (P.L.343, No.176), entitled
"An act relating to the finances of the State government;
providing for cancer control, prevention and research, for
ambulatory surgical center data collection, for the Joint
Underwriting Association, for entertainment business
financial management firms, for private dam financial
assurance and for reinstatement of item vetoes; providing for
the settlement, assessment, collection, and lien of taxes,
bonus, and all other accounts due the Commonwealth, the
collection and recovery of fees and other money or property
due or belonging to the Commonwealth, or any agency thereof,
including escheated property and the proceeds of its sale,
the custody and disbursement or other disposition of funds
and securities belonging to or in the possession of the
Commonwealth, and the settlement of claims against the
Commonwealth, the resettlement of accounts and appeals to the
courts, refunds of moneys erroneously paid to the
Commonwealth, auditing the accounts of the Commonwealth and
all agencies thereof, of all public officers collecting
moneys payable to the Commonwealth, or any agency thereof,
and all receipts of appropriations from the Commonwealth,
authorizing the Commonwealth to issue tax anticipation notes
to defray current expenses, implementing the provisions of
section 7(a) of Article VIII of the Constitution of
Pennsylvania authorizing and restricting the incurring of
certain debt and imposing penalties; affecting every
department, board, commission, and officer of the State
government, every political subdivision of the State, and
certain officers of such subdivisions, every person,
association, and corporation required to pay, assess, or
collect taxes, or to make returns or reports under the laws
imposing taxes for State purposes, or to pay license fees or
other moneys to the Commonwealth, or any agency thereof,
every State depository and every debtor or creditor of the
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Commonwealth," in emergency COVID-19 response, establishing
the County Block Grant - Broadband Deployment and Development
Program.
The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
hereby enacts as follows:
Section 1. The act of April 9, 1929 (P.L.343, No.176), known
as The Fiscal Code, is amended by adding a section to read:
Section 135-C. Broadband Deployment and Development Program.
(a) County block grants.--From money appropriated by the
General Assembly for the distribution of grants under this
section, each county shall receive an amount equal to the amount
determined under paragraph (2). The following shall apply:
(1) The department shall distribute funding to counties
in accordance with this subsection no later than 21 days
after the starting date.
(2) Each county shall receive an allocation for
distribution under subsection (b) equal to the amount
available for allocation under this section multiplied by the
quotient of the following:
(i) The county's broadband coverage weighted
population, which shall be calculated as follows:
(A) The county's population as determined under
paragraph (3); multiplied by
(B) The broadband coverage weighting factor for
the county as determined under paragraph (4)(iv);
divided by
(ii) The sum of each county's broadband coverage
weighted population as determined under subparagraph (i).
(3) For purposes of this subsection, a county's
population shall be equal to the published estimate by the
United States Census Bureau Population Estimates Program for
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calendar year 2019.
(4) The following shall apply:
(i) No later than 10 days after the effective date
of this section, the department shall, in consultation
with an extension of a land-grant university, identify
the amount of broadband coverage available in each
county. The identification under this subparagraph shall
use data made available by the Federal Communications
Commission.
(ii) Each county shall be identified under
subparagraph (i) as follows:
(A) A county with sparse availability of high-
speed broadband coverage shall be identified as
having low broadband coverage.
(B) A county with a moderate availability of
high-speed broadband coverage or with a high degree
of variability of high-speed broadband coverage
within the county shall be identified as having
moderate broadband coverage.
(C) A county with a high availability of high-
speed broadband coverage shall be identified as
having high broadband coverage.
(iii) The following shall apply to the
identifications under subparagraph (ii):
(A) No fewer than 20 counties shall be
identified as having low broadband coverage under
subparagraph (ii)(A).
(B) No more than five counties shall be
identified as having high broadband coverage under
subparagraph (ii)(C).
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(iv) Each county shall be assigned a broadband
coverage weighting factor as follows:
(A) A county identified as having low broadband
coverage under subparagraph (ii)(A) shall have a
broadband coverage weighting factor of 1.5.
(B) A county identified as having moderate
broadband coverage under subparagraph (ii)(B) shall
have a broadband coverage weighting factor of 1.
(C) A county identified as having high broadband
coverage under subparagraph (ii)(C) shall have a
broadband coverage weighting factor of 0.5.
(b) Broadband Deployment and Development Program.--The
County Block Grant - Broadband Deployment and Development
Program is established within the department for the purpose of
awarding grants under this section. The following shall apply to
the program:
(1) No later than 22 days after the starting date, each
county that receives a grant under this section may contract
with a contracting entity to award grants under this section
on behalf of the county.
(2) A county which does not enter into a contract under
paragraph (1) shall award grants under this section.
(3) Grants under this section shall be awarded to
eligible applicants for the purpose of paying for eligible
expenses.
(4) A grant awarded to an eligible applicant may not
exceed $1,000.
(5) The following shall apply to applications to receive
grants under this section:
(i) Applications shall be in a form determined by a
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county or its contracting entity.
(ii) Applications shall contain documentation as
required by the county.
(iii) Applications shall be available
electronically.
(iv) No later than 45 days after the starting date,
a county or its contracting entity shall receive and
consider applications on a rolling basis until funding
for grants received by the county under subsection (a)
has been completely expended, or 130 days after the
starting date, whichever occurs first. Upon completely
expending the funds available for grants, the county or
its contracting entity shall notify the department.
(6) The following shall apply to reviewing applications
for grants under this section:
(i) No later than 160 days after the starting date,
a county or its contracting entity shall approve or
disapprove applications for grants.
(ii) Upon approving an application under
subparagraph (i), a county or its contracting entity
shall enter into a grant agreement with the eligible
applicant in order to award the grant.
(iii) The grant agreement under subparagraph (ii)
shall explain the terms and conditions of the grant,
including the applicable laws of this Commonwealth and
reporting requirements.
(iv) The grant agreement under subparagraph (ii) may
be electronically signed and returned to the county or
its contracting entity that approved the application.
(7) An eligible applicant that submits an application
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for a grant under this section shall certify in good faith to
all of the following:
(i) That the eligible applicant lacks reliable
access to high-speed broadband service.
(ii) That COVID-19 had an adverse impact on the
eligible applicant, which makes the grant request
necessary to support the ongoing operations of the
eligible applicant.
(iii) That the grant will be used to pay for
eligible expenses.
(iv) That the information provided in the
application and all supporting documents and forms is
true and accurate in all material respects. An eligible
applicant that knowingly makes a false statement to
obtain a grant shall be subject to 18 Pa.C.S. ยง 4904
(relating to unsworn falsification to authorities).
(8) The following shall apply to the awarding of grants
under this section:
(i) A county or its contracting entity may award
grants in increments of $100, not to exceed the
limitation under paragraph (4).
(ii) A fully executed grant agreement under
paragraph (6)(ii) shall be required before the
disbursement of grant funds.
(iii) The aggregate amount of all grants awarded may
not exceed the amount of money received by the county
under subsection (a).
(9) A county or its contracting entity may charge a fee
not to exceed 2% of the amount available to the county for
grants under this section. Fees charged under this paragraph
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shall be deducted from the total amount of money distributed
to the county under subsection (a) and may not reduce the
amount of the grant awarded to an eligible applicant.
(10) A grant awarded under this section shall be paid to
an eligible applicant no later than 175 days after the
starting date.
(11) A county that provides grants under this section
shall compile a report, which shall include all of the
following:
(i) A list of each grant awarded.
(ii) The name and address of each grant recipient.
(iii) The amount of the grant and a description of
the financial impact to the grant recipient .
(iv) Whether the county entered into an agreement
with a contracting entity and, if so, the name of the
contracting entity that processed the grant.
(12) A county shall submit the report under paragraph
(11) to the department no later than 200 days after the
starting date.
(13) The department shall prepare a consolidated report
with information under paragraph (12) from all counties and
submit the consolidated report to the chair and minority
chair of the Appropriations Committee of the Senate and the
chair and minority chair of the Appropriations Committee of
the House of Representatives no later than 235 days after the
starting date.
(14) The county shall post and maintain the report under
paragraph (11) on the county's publicly accessible Internet
website.
(15) The department shall post and maintain the
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consolidated report under paragraph (14) on the department's
publicly accessible Internet website.
(16) A county awarding grants and a contracting entity
processing grants on behalf of a county under this section
shall provide documentation to the Department of the Auditor
General or the department, upon request, for purposes of an
audit review.
(17) The department may not impose additional
requirements on counties that are not specified in this
section.
(18) A county may establish income eligibility
requirements for the program.
(c) Definitions.--As used in this section, the following
words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this
subsection unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
"Contracting entity." An entity which a county enters into a
contract with to administer the program under this section on
behalf of the county.
"Department." The Department of Community and Economic
Development of the Commonwealth.
"Eligible applicant." An individual who lacks reliable
access to high-speed broadband service and meets income
eligibility requirements determined by a county.
"Eligible expenses." The costs of acquiring high-speed
broadband service, including the up-front cost of equipment and
monthly subscription services.
"High-speed broadband service." As defined in section 3 of
the act of November 25, 2020 (P.L.1253, No.132), known as the
Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program Act.
"Program." The County Block Grant - Broadband Deployment and
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Development Program established under subsection (b).
"Starting date." The effective date of this section or the
effective date of an appropriation for distribution of grants
under this section, whichever is later.
Section 2. This act shall take effect immediately.
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