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Senators Markey, Cantwell, Van Hollen, Bennet, and Hassan and Congresswoman Meng Applaud Senate Passage of More Than $7 Billion in E-Rate Distance Learning Funding in Coronavirus Relief Package

Washington (March 6, 2020) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06) applauded inclusion of their legislation, the Emergency Educational Connections Act, and more than $7 billion in funding for the E-Rate (Education-Rate) program in the coronavirus rescue package that passed the Senate today. The lawmakers’ legislation funds elementary and secondary schools and libraries, including tribal schools and libraries, to provide Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-enabled devices, including internet service through such equipment, to students, staff, and patrons.

As the United States reaches the one year-anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic, studies indicate that as many as 12 million children still lack internet access at home and are unable to participate in online learning. These students are disproportionately from communities of color, low-income households, Tribal lands, and rural areas.

“Throughout this pandemic, we have asked our students to shoulder an enormous burden and continue their education from home,” said Senator Markey. “The funding included in this relief package for K-12 distance learning will finally provide all our children with the technology and tools to set them up for success and ensure they can continue their studies from home. This funding will help ensure that the ‘homework gap’ does not grow into a damaging learning and opportunity gap for our children, particularly those who live in communities of color, low-income households, and rural areas.” 

“12 million school kids still don’t have access to adequate broadband for remote learning,” said Senator Cantwell. “This bill provides $7 billion to the FCC for schools and libraries to provide broadband connectivity for helping students learn at home. I want to thank Senator Markey for his tireless efforts to close the homework gap.”

“Now more than ever, without access to the internet, our children risk falling behind. This funding will help more students get online and ensure that they can continue to grow and learn during this challenging time. I was proud to fight alongside my colleagues for this crucial investment, and I will continue working to provide our students and educators the resources they need to succeed,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Almost a year ago, I joined Senator Markey to urge more funding to connect students online so they could keep learning during the pandemic. Months have passed, and there are still at least 12 million students without an internet connection at home,” said Bennet. “Many have been locked out of class through no fault of their own, and it’s come at an enormous cost to them and to our country. This is a moral and economic travesty. I’m grateful that, after months of persistent advocacy, we are finally investing in what’s required to connect students online to continue their learning and fulfill their potential.”

“Many students are falling behind in school because they do not have sufficient broadband access to learn remotely or do their homework amid this pandemic,” said Senator Hassan. “This significant funding through the E-Rate program will help address the long-standing digital divide that the pandemic has only exacerbated. As more students are able to get back to in-person learning, it will continue to be essential that students have access to internet-connectivity devices that are necessary in order for them to keep up with their lessons and complete homework assignments. I am glad to have been a part of efforts to secure this critical funding in the COVID-19 relief package, and I will continue working to get this across the finish line.”

“Democrats promised the American people that we would deliver more urgently needed relief to combat the COVID-19 crisis, and we are one step away from doing exactly that,” said Congresswoman Meng. “I am relieved and thrilled that the Senate passed this relief package. We are another step closer to providing more than $7 billion to help students stay connected with their virtual classrooms during the pandemic. I am proud to have fought for this vital funding in the House, and I want to especially thank Senator Markey and Senators Van Hollen, Hassan, and Bennet for their tireless leadership in advancing our bill—the Emergency Educational Connection Act—in Congress. Throughout the pandemic, our children have suffered so much. As a mom of two young boys, I am grateful that this funding will get students connected with their classrooms, peers, and their learning.”

The lawmakers’ E-Rate funding was also included in the House coronavirus relief package that passed the chamber last week and is expected to pass again. 

Since the E-Rate began nearly two decades ago, more than $54 billion has been invested nationwide to provide internet access for schools and libraries. Senator Markey is the author of the original E-Rate program, which was created as a part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The program is designed to connect schools and libraries to the Internet.