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Feds approve millions to improve rural internet McNew/Getty Images

Federal officials plan to spend $401 million in grants and loans to expand the reach and improve the speed of internet for residents, tribes and businesses in rural areas, including in parts of Arizona.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters that farmers, store owners, schoolchildren and people seeking telehealth medical checkups will benefit from the ReConnect and Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee programs.

He estimated that the connectivity improvements could benefit about 31,000 people in states like Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.

The pandemic highlighted the need for increased broadband access in Arizona, especially on tribal lands.