ATLANTA – The state of Georgia awarded almost $408 million in federal economic stimulus grants Tuesday to businesses, households, communities and nonprofits in 70 counties for broadband projects.

Including matching funds, the $738 million in total investment will pay for 49 projects in parts of rural Georgia most lacking in broadband connectivity, Gov. Brian Kemp announced during a ceremony at the state Capitol.

“In Georgia, we are getting very close to closing the gap between the served and unserved,” Kemp said. “We wanted to reach as many Georgians as possible.”

The governor appointed three bipartisan committees last June to sift through applications to share in Georgia’s $4.8 billion allocation of federal COVID-19 relief funds.

The committees focused separately on offsetting the economic impact of the pandemic, extending broadband connectivity and helping pay for needed water and sewer improvements.

Tuesday’s awards were the first selected by the Broadband Committee.

“Broadband has truly turned into another piece of infrastructure just as important as roads, water and sewer and electricity,” said Georgia House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, who participated in the committee selections.

“I’m thankful for the impact these grants will make.”

“These dollars will help us fill in holes where other funding is not available,” added Romanous Dotson, general manager of Swainsboro-based Altamaha Electric Membership Corp., which received a grant of almost $6 million.

The largest grant awarded Tuesday was $25.4 million to the One Sumter Economic Development Foundation. Central Georgia EMC and Flint EMC each received just more than $25 million.

Broadband Committee members were aided in their selection of project applicants by a broadband availability map rolled out by the state Department of Community Affairs in 2020 showing areas in most need of high-speed internet access.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.