LITTLE VALLEY — Cattaraugus County lawmakers didn’t have to think twice Wednesday before voting to apply for $15 million in federal CARES Act funding to expand broadband services.
The resolution authorizes Legislature Chairman Howard VanRensselaer, R-Randolph, to sign the application to the Economic Development Administration which is administering some CARES Act funding.
One of the sponsors, Richard Helmich Jr., R-Delevan, said the funding through the CARES 2020 Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance Program “is a shot in the dark. We’ll try to get whatever we can.”
Helmich admitted the $15 million “is a drop in the bucket for what we need.”
Crystal Abers, director of the Department of Economic Development, Planning and Tourism, agreed, saying, “We certainly have the need to expand our current broadband service.”
Abers said there is no way of knowing whether the EDA will approve the entire request.
The county is already in the midst of a build-out of fiber optic cable infrastructure, Abers noted. Armstrong Cable has received millions of dollars to survey areas by census block and is currently in the process of installing cable on utility poles.
Armstrong is expected to begin offering internet service hookups sometime next year, Abers said. If the $15 million grant is received, it would allow Armstrong to further expand its presence in the county — principally rural areas that are outside the service areas of other cable and internet providers.
Armstrong plans to offer internet and phone service, but not cable channels.
County officials have aided other broadband internet services, mostly in the western and northeastern parts of the county.
The internet services in the western part of the county are operated by DDT Communications and involve a microwave-based system. Southern Tier Wireless operates a similar system in the northeast part of the county.
Another resolution contracts with Cattaraugus Community Action for $169,279 to run a program to prevent poor attendance and chronic absenteeism in county schools. The state funds 62% of the program and the county 38%.
An afterschool program at the Olean YMCA for at risk kids for up to $16,000 a year was also approved. The current program expires Sept. 30.
Legislators also approved another resolution for the Health Department’s Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Program to provide $25,894 for two part-time breastfeeding peer counselors and $50,176 for a full-time nutrition program aide.
Another resolution was passed authorizing the Department of Social Services to fund a $68,279 Kinship Program through Catholic Charities for relatives who take care of children instead of them being placed in foster care.
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)