Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday introduced a bill that would create a fund at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) aimed at closing the homework gap among students during the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill, the Emergency Educational Connections Act of 2020, would create a $2 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund at the FCC. The money would be used for schools and libraries to purchase WiFi hotspots, modems, routers, and other devices to get students online during the pandemic.
With students being forced to be schooled from home because of coronavirus, it has highlighted the digital divide and “homework gap” in the United States. The gap is the number of students who don’t have access to the internet, which one estimate says is 12 million students.
“Before this crisis occurred, students without internet access at home were part of the so called ‘homework gap’ and struggled to keep up with their peers who have internet access at home,” Meng said in a statement. “Students without internet service will fall further behind as students with internet service at home can continue advancing in their studies. Whether they live in urban centers, suburbs, or exurbs, or small communities in rural America, all students require internet connectivity to succeed during this pandemic.”
Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) tweeted on Tuesday that he plans to introduce companion legislation to Meng’s bill in the Senate.
“I plan to partner with @RepGraceMeng and introduce companion legislation in the Senate that directs billions more toward the crucial E-Rate program. We need to ensure this program is funded to close the #HomeworkGap and keep students connected during #COVID19,” Markey tweeted.
Markey was among a group of senators who asked the FCC last month to use funds from its E-Rate program, which offers subsidies to schools and libraries to get affordable broadband.
Meanwhile, a majority of the Democrats in the Senate have called on congressional leadership to include funding to help close the homework gap in the next coronavirus relief bill.
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