The House Energy & Commerce Committee late last week passed and sent to the full House a COVID-19 relief and budget reconciliation package that allocates more than $7 billion to the E-Rate program. Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) applauded inclusion of their legislation the Emergency Educational Connections Act and the E-Rate money. The program directs funds to schools and libraries for internet connectivity.
The legislation funds WiFi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-enabled devices, including internet service through such equipment, to students, staff, and patrons.
“The reconciliation package reflects what we all know: that we cannot afford to wait another day to connect online our nation’s most vulnerable children to their teachers and classmates and to ensure the ‘homework gap’ does not continue to grow into a damaging learning and opportunity gap as the pandemic continues,” the lawmakers stated. “We call on our colleagues in both the Senate and House to include this funding in the final package and quickly send it to President Biden’s desk for his signature.”
More than $54 billion has been invested nationwide to provide internet access for schools and libraries since the E-Rate began nearly two decades ago. Markey is the author of the original E-Rate program, which was created as a part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
Congress is out this week, but the work of pulling together the Democrats’ opening offer at COVID relief continues this week. The House is on-track to pass their portion of the $1.9 trillion proposal as soon as next week, reports CNN.