The FCC 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 address the digital divide during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The agencies will team up to raise awareness of the money among libraries and tribal organizations, which can use them to increase broadband access in their communities.
The IMLS is the primary source of federal funding for the nation’s museums and libraries. The CARES Act allocated $50 million to enable these institutions, as well as organizations serving tribal communities, to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the pandemic. This includes work to expand digital network access, purchase internet accessible devices, and provide technical support services to their communities.
More than half of the money was distributed through State Library Administrative Agencies (SLAAs) in all states and territories based on population. States and territories may use these funds to expand broadband access and prioritize their efforts to high-need communities using data on poverty rates, unemployment rates, and broadband availability.
Additionally, $15 million will be awarded through grants to libraries and museums, as well as tribes and organizations serving and representing Native Hawaiians. The goal of the grant programs is to support these entities and organizations in responding to the coronavirus pandemic in ways that meet the immediate and future COVID-19 needs of the communities they serve. Grant proposals may include short- or medium-term solutions to address gaps in digital infrastructure. For example, libraries may partner with community organizations to develop community WiFi hotspot and laptop lending programs in underserved areas. Applications are due June 12, with award announcements anticipated this August.