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Clyburn thanks Trump for 'agreeing' to universal broadband access investment

"I want to thank the president for agreeing that this is something we ought to do. I would hope that we can work together, not just to make broadband accessible but to make it affordable," Clyburn said

Updated: May 29, 2020 - 6:36pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

House Majority Whip James Clyburn thanked President Trump on Thursday for agreeing to make an investment in universal broadband access for low-income communities and rural areas, as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, recalled hearing stories about children in low-income communities going to the parking lots of local fast-food restaurants to use the establishment's wireless Internet to do homework.

"I shared this with the president and he said he got it," Clyburn said during a press conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "I want to thank the president for agreeing that this is something we ought to do. I would hope that we can work together, not just to make broadband accessible but to make it affordable."

House Democrats have proposed spending more than $80 billion on a 5-year universal broadband initiative as part of an infrastructure plan in the fourth coronavirus relief package titled CARES II. The funding would target urban and rural areas as well as other low-income communities.

Last year, the White House and congressional leaders tenatively agreed on spending $2 trillion on an infrastructure bill.

"Just do it and worry about paying for it later," Clyburn said at the time. 

Congress didn't pass a comprehensive infrastructure bill, but President Trump recently said he would support a $2 trillion fourth coronavirus relief package that includes infrastructure spending.

The fourth COVID-19 package is also expected to include increased spending on federal assistance for state, county and city governments, which Pelosi estimated could total close to $1 trillion.

The California Democrat said Thursday that the state and local funding would be focused on replenishing revenue losses due to coronavirus. She said the funding could help states and localities financially over a three- or four-year period in some cases.

"The states are putting together a number. You've heard a figure of $500 billion. The municipalities and counties have a similar figure but, again, we want to relate it to outlays and lost revenue. We're not going to be able to cover all of it but to the extent that we can keep the states and localities sustainable, that's our goal," Pelosi said. "That money is not just for one year. That could be for as much as three years, maybe even four in certain cases so it is over time."

The National Association of Counties has called for the federal government to provide $250 billion in funding for counties due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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