Up to 10,000 Sacramento households affected by the pandemic, particularly low-income households with children and seniors, will receive free broadband access this fall through a new pilot program launched by the City of Sacramento and United Way California Capital Region. Funded through the federal CARES Act, the Digital Equity program also will provide free computers to up to 1,000 households as well as digital literacy training on how to use the technology. To qualify, an applicant must be a City of Sacramento resident and eligible for public assistance programs such as the National School Lunch Program, Medicaid or WIC. To apply and learn more, call 211 or visit sacramentocovidrelief.org/digital.
The Digital Equity program aims to address unequal access to technology, known as the digital divide, which has expanded during the pandemic.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected our low-income communities and made it even more crucial that we close the digital divide,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “Providing reliable Internet access to families in Sacramento means more children can learn and more adults can work or take advantage of education and retraining that will help them succeed in today’s job market.”
Participating households will receive broadband at no cost through December and will be offered service through the Comcast Internet Essentials program at a discounted rate after that. Households receiving computers will be offered refurbished Dell Chromebooks. The program will contract with community-based nonprofits and school districts to provide outreach, identify households in need and house “digital champions” who will work on outreach, case management and training in targeted geographic areas. Digital champions are community residents with technology skill sets who are trained to help households with broadband application and provide basic digital literacy education.
“The pandemic has brought the digital inequities in our community to the forefront, and I am happy to see our city working to provide residents with access to Internet and computers to be able to learn, work and stay connected with others,” said Mayor Pro Tem Angelique Ashby. “This program will help close these digital gaps by providing equipment, connection and digital literacy to those most in need.”
Of the more than 24 million unconnected households nationwide, the digital divide disproportionately affects minority and low-income populations. According to the Federal Communications Commission, 35 percent of adults who do not use broadband at home are older, poorer, less educated, more likely to be a racial or ethnic minority, and more likely to have a disability than those with a home connection.
“We are honored to partner with the city to provide Sacramento residents in need with equal access to the technology necessary to succeed during the pandemic,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “This project is an important element of United Way’s Square One Project that is working to make sure families have the tools and resources they need so kids can graduate from high school ready for success in college or career. There is no doubt that Internet access and technology will play an increasingly vital role in kids’ success in school.”
For nearly 100 years, United Way California Capital Region has brought local people together to make community change happen. Today, the nonprofit is bringing people together across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties for its Square One Project, a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of students in our region who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. United Way believes ending poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones and their families receive support and resources. To learn more and make a donation, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.