PA Awards $20 Million to Help Schools and Libraries Close Digital Divide

$20.57 million has been awarded to 126 school entities and libraries in the first wave of funding from the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), and reminded schools that the second application window is now open.

Created through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund is considered the nation’s largest single effort to ensure students have access to the digital devices and resources they need for the school year. The program will also help libraries offer their patrons internet connectivity and digital devices to continue their learning at home.

“We know that access to technology and reliable internet help support our students’ learning when they’re not on campus, however, the pandemic has only increased and exacerbated inequities in access,” said Governor Wolf. “The ECF program is providing a valuable resource to help school entities and libraries across the commonwealth create digital equity for all of Pennsylvania’s students, no matter what city or town they call home.”

A total of $20.5 million was awarded to 126 applicants including 86 school districts, 29 schools, and 11 libraries. Of the total, $15.7 million will be used for equipment and $4.9 million will be directed to securing internet service. Additional funding from the first and second ECF application cycles will be released weekly until all applications have been reviewed.

Applications for the second round of this program are being accepted until October 13, 2021. During the application filing window, eligible schools, libraries, and consortia of eligible schools and libraries, can submit requests for funding to purchase eligible equipment and services between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022. Those who applied for the first round and have additional unmet needs are eligible to reapply.

Eligible applicants should apply at www.emergencyconnectivityfund.org.

The ECF is a program created to help eligible schools and libraries close the digital divide and homework gap. The ECF, administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is a $7.17 billion temporary program that will help cover costs associated with digital devices such as laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connectivity purchases for off-campus use by students, educators, and library patrons who currently lack sufficient access to broadband and connected devices. ECF will fund digital devices up to $400 per device.

“Public libraries play a key role in providing communities with access to the digital world and educational resources,” said Secretary of Education Dr. Noe Ortega. “I am delighted to see that libraries will be able to continue this work through the ECF Program and am proud of the libraries that have received resources on the first wave of funding.”