Broadband Grants Could Be Caught Up in Debt Ceiling Imbroglio

President Joe Biden’s infrastructure czar warns that broadband and other projects will be jeopardized if the U.S. government defaults or if the debt-limit standoff with Congress results in changes to funding sources.

“It could absolutely get in the way,” White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu said Thursday. In a default, federal officials would be directed to stop working on the projects, Landrieu said. “The ripple effect to the economy is going to be dramatic,” Bloomberg reported. 

A meeting between Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other congressional leaders set for Friday was postponed as their aides continued negotiations toward a deal to raise the U.S. debt ceiling and avoid a default. Biden is expected to meet today with congressional leaders on the debt ceiling limit following “productive” staff-level negotiations over the weekend, sources familiar with the talks told CNN. The deadline to act could come as soon as June 1.  

Biden signed a bipartisan $550 billion infrastructure measure in November 2021, with a promise that it would improve Americans’ lives and keep the nation’s economy moving forward. In the 18 months since, $220 billion has been awarded for about 32,000 projects.

“We’re pushing the money out of the door very aggressively,” Landrieu said.

Some $65 billion is devoted to broadband grants. The largest tranche, $42 billion, is coming from NTIA, which plans to issue those to states by June 30, Inside Towers reported.

The Treasury said in a statement Friday that it had just $88 billion of extraordinary measures remaining as of May 10, to help pay the government’s bills, according to Bloomberg. That’s down from around $110 billion a week earlier, and it means that just over a quarter of the $333 billion of authorized measures are still available to keep the U.S. government from exhausting its borrowing room under the debt limit. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said this month that her department could run out of cash as soon as June 1.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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