ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s a problem that was highlighted during the pandemic. People living in the east mountains dealing with unreliable internet, while working and going to school remotely. Now, the county will be using federal funding to help fix that issue.

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Better broadband access is a big priority for the county, along with a number of water and sewer projects that have been in the works for years. “The southern-most part of the county still isn’t connected to the water utility system,” said Clay Campbell, the chief of staff for the Bernalillo County manager.

The South Valley Drinking Water Project has been a priority for more than a decade. In 2009 more than 300 homes were added to the city-county water utility authority. “For a number of years now the Water Authority and county have been cooperating to extend municipal water services to unserved areas,” said David Morris, a spokesman for the Albuquerque- Bernalillo County Water Authority.

Now, the county is using $8-million of federal pandemic relief funding to complete the final phase of that project. The money is just a portion of the $130-million awarded to the county as part of the American Rescue Plan with half of it going towards various water and sewer projects.

Another $10-million will be used to improve access to broadband in the east mountains and the west mesa. A project County Commissioner Charlene Pyskoti has pushed for, for years. “Especially during the pandemic,” said Pyskoti. “It really drove home that kids needed reliable internet to do school, do their homework, parents need it for work,” said Pyskoti.

The county says it’s in the early planning stages for the broadband project but expects to have it up and running about a year from now. The county is also using $10-million of federal funding for retroactive hazard pay for essential employees who worked through the pandemic.