Padilla Announces Over $70 Million in Emergency Connectivity Funds for CA, Encourages More Californians to Apply for Broadband Programs
Second 15-Day Window to Open on September 28 for School and Library ECF Purchases in the 2021-22 School Year
LOS ANGELES, CA—Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) announced that California schools and libraries will receive over $70 million from the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) to help get their patrons, students, and staff online. Last week, the FCC announced that it is committing over $1.2 billion in ECF program funding to schools and libraries. SenatorPadilla also announced that since the program went live on May 12, 2021 over 730,000 households in California have enrolled in the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which helps subsidize the cost of broadband for households.
In July, Senator Padilla hosted an informational webinar with Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to encourage local libraries and school districts across the Golden State to apply for the Emergency Connectivity Fund. In light of outstanding demand, the FCC will open the second application filing window—which will run from September 28 to October 13—to provide support for the current school year. Funding is available for the purchase of laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connections for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons in need, and is available to support off-campus learning, such as homework. Sen. Padilla also encouraged Californians to enroll in the Emergency Broadband Benefit which provides 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. Additionally, through this program households can receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic made clear, internet access is essential infrastructure,” said Senator Padilla. “I’m glad to see many communities across the state take advantage of these two important programs, which will help close the homework gap for students who lack necessary digital devices or internet access. While most students have returned to in-person learning, the digital divide still affects our children’s ability to learn and succeed outside of the classroom. I encourage eligible schools and libraries to apply during the second application window to ensure that they receive the resources needed to help our students succeed.”
“If we truly want to level the playing field for students in California – to ensure all students have access to the technology and tools that not only help them access their learning remotely but will be needed for success later in life – we cannot rest until we close this digital divide,” said State Superintendent Thurmond. “Together we can find solutions to the inequities our students and educators have been facing. We are grateful for Senator Padilla’s work and the fact we have already connected hundreds of thousands of children statewide through this program. More needs to be done. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for schools to apply for these funds now.”
“California’s public libraries have long been advocates for digital equity and access for their patrons. As a result of Senator Padilla’s championing of the Emergency Connectivity Fund and with the support of the California State Library to maximize this opportunity, California’s libraries have applied for millions of dollars,” said Laura Sasaki, California State Libraries Broadband Program Manager. “These much-needed funds will provide devices and hotspots, giving library patrons access to a basic need – devices and the broadband internet services that connect them to so many resources for daily life – from their own homes. While the work is far from done, reaching beyond the physical walls of a library building is a huge step towards connecting all Californians and closing the digital divide.”
Schools and libraries across California that are eligible for support under the FCC’s E-Rate program are eligible to request and receive support through the Emergency Connectivity Fund program. Tribal libraries eligible for support under the Library Services and Technology Act are also eligible for support under the program.
The $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund program—which was included in the American Rescue Plan that Senator Padilla voted to enact—will help provide relief to millions of students, school staff, and library patrons for the current 2021-22 school year. Senator Padilla also recently co-sponsored the SUCCESS Act, which would provide $40 billion over five years to extend the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund and enable schools and libraries to continue supporting remote learning.