The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced May 21 it is partnering with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to promote the use of $50 million in funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help close the digital divide during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now more than ever, it is critical that all Americans have access to broadband to participate in online learning, get medical care via telehealth, search for jobs, and stay in touch with family and friends,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “And many Americans rely on their local library for this connectivity. So I’m pleased that Congress has provided funding to libraries and other entities to help them respond to the needs of their patrons during the coronavirus pandemic by bringing digital tools such as Wi-Fi and tablets into their communities.”
The FCC and IMLS will partner to raise awareness of the available funding among libraries and Tribal organizations, which can use the funds to expand broadband access in their communities. The funding is specifically intended to help expand digital network access, purchase Internet-accessible devices, and provide technical support services. As part of the partnership, the FCC will publicize the CARES Act resource, conduct outreach to targeted organizations and communities, and provide information on broadband providers who may be able to assist.
“IMLS is focusing on bolstering the digital capacity of libraries and museums, helping them address the digital divide with the resources and direction provided by Congress and the White House through the CARES Act,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “This money and this partnership will make a difference in the lives of people across the nation.”
Of the available $50 million, more than half has been distributed through State Library Administrative Agencies in all states and territories based on population. The FCC said that $15 million of the funding will be awarded via grants to libraries and museums, as well as organizations serving Native American Tribes and Native Hawaiians. Grant proposals can include short- or medium-term solutions to address gaps in digital infrastructure. Applications are due June 12 with award announcements anticipated in August.