Leslie Durham

LESLIE DURHAM with the Delta Regional Authority, shown with Ferriday Rotary Club President-elect Andy Anders, was guest speaker at the group’s weekly luncheon on Sept. 9.

Leslie Durham with the Delta Regional Authority discussed the status of 2021 grants and other projects for this region during a talk to the Ferriday Rotary Club on Sept. 9.

She highlighted projectsthat have regional impacts including a USDA/DRA project for 2020 that will finance telehealth equipment, technical support and training in 43 of 64 parishes.

In April 2021, the DRA launched a crowdsourcing broadband mapping program, one of the first multi-state programs of its kind, which includes the entire state of Louisiana, Durham said.

DRA’s Delta Broadband Mapping Project is, according to DRA, “an innovative online crowd-sourcing platform.” DRA has “launched this year-long effort to gauge broadband accessibility throughout its eight-state region. DRA needs as many residents as possible to take this internet speed test to develop an accurate representation availability across the 252 counties and parishes.”

Durham said there are individuals who have internet available but can’t afford it. She said anyone on free or reduced lunch, SNAP, considered low income, or on Medicaid, qualify for the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit.

This will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands.

According to DRA. “Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.

“The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.”

Durham also discussed the various boards and commissions Governor John Bel Edwards appointed her to and how the work benefits and supports rural communities

Programs include the student debt forgiveness program for medical and dental physicians who return to work in rural underserved communities.

“This program was created from the Governor’s Rural Revitalization Council whose director is Noble Ellington, another local advocate for rural issues,” she said.

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