(Source: BIL Navigator)

A new tool aims to make it easier for governments, entities, and others to navigate the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and its money allotments. 

McKinsey & Company recently released the navigation tool after initially creating it for internal use, said Sara O’ Rourke, a partner who leads the management consulting firm’s work on the law. . 

Clients found the navigator helpful in navigating the immense amount of information in the law, including agencies and deadlines for dollars. It incorporates deadlines, milestones, and statute requirements.

“We’ve heard that not just from state and local governments, we’ve heard that from private sector companies,” O’Rourke said in an interview with The Daily Yonder. 

Both O’Rourke and Adi Kumar, senior partners, hope the tool will enhance the capabilities of more rural areas in the U.S. 

“I think one of the best things about the BIL Navigator is it’ll help communities who have less resources and have a harder time navigating highly complex federal government programs, rules and regulations,” Kumar said. “I think oftentimes, those are communities that fall in rural America. I personally have heard time and time again, from leaders across the country, that small communities, municipalities, local governments, government agencies that lack resources are having a really hard time not only navigating the law, but also cobbling together the resources to attempt to get more resources.”

In addition to the tool, the consulting firm also recently released a report about how states can tackle the digital divide. 

“U.S. policymakers have long talked about the need to close the nation’s digital divide,” the report stated.” Last year, Congress translated that talk into action, appropriating roughly $45 billion to help states bring high-speed internet access to every American household through the Bipartisan

Infrastructure Law (BIL). Federal broadband funding through BIL marks one of the largest public investments in connectivity since the creation of the Interstate Highway System in 1956…Yet it’s unclear whether states have the administrative and planning capacity to take full advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

The report said that in the United States, 24 million people lack access to high-speed internet, and many more cannot connect due to gaps in digital equity and literacy. The report gives nine recommendations for how states could consider setting up their broadband programs. 

“Actually, many states don’t have a broadband office, and they’re creating new authorities,” Kumar said. “And there’s a lot of work happening at the government level to try to get this right. It will take a lot of work to get this right.”

Kumar said the pandemic has really made clear why people need broadband access – from working to telehealth options to schooling their children that many people didn’t rely on before the pandemic. 

“I think for millions and millions of Americans, it is very, very loud and clear why this is so important,” he said. “And all of our data suggests that even as we try to come out of the pandemic, that is going to continue to be the case because people are fundamentally living their lives in different ways.”

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