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Providence, RI – RIHousing today announced the availability of a second round of “Bridging the Digital Divide” funds to support innovative and long-term sustainable projects to increase internet access for low- and moderate-income households across the state. The program provides financial resources to eligible organizations and municipalities in support of initiatives to expand and support free or low-cost internet access.
“We are thrilled to be able to offer a second round of funding awards to help bridge the digital divide for Rhode Islanders,” said Carol Ventura, Executive Director of RIHousing. “The COVID-19 pandemic greatly accelerated the shift to online services and virtual connections and digital access has become a necessity for employment, education, and day-to-day tasks. Too many low- and moderate-income households cannot access high-speed internet at home, resulting in barriers to their ability to access critical resources and information.”
In January 2021, RIHousing announced its initial round of Digital Divide Funds and awarded $250,000 in program funds to four applicants in May of this year. With this second round of funding, the agency is looking for creative proposals that will provide low-and-moderate income Rhode Island residents with long-term, high-speed access to the internet.
While there are a number of existing initiatives to help bridge the digital divide, there are still many residents who cannot afford adequate and long-term internet access. Many of the available resources are earmarked to help build the infrastructure for high-speed internet, and typically cannot be used to pay for internet access.
“Our Digital Divide Fund represents RIHousing’s commitment to helping Rhode Islanders and complements existing initiatives from cable providers, the state, and non-profit community to create and expand affordable access to the internet,” said James Comer, Deputy Director, RIHousing. “With this second round of funding, we hope to further reduce disparities in internet access, which can have adverse economic and social consequences on those left behind.”
Award recipients of the initial round of funding proposed a variety of initiatives, including expansion of WiFi for public housing residents, free mobile hotspots, programs targeted to youth and seniors, updated hardware and devices and digital literacy efforts. RIHousing is looking for innovative and creative programs that will empower Rhode Islanders all across the state to take advantage of new opportunities and compete in the knowledge economy and encourages partnerships, pilot projects, ‘out-of-the-box thinking’ and replication of successful projects from across the country.
A total of $450,000 is available in funding, with a maximum award amount of $75,000 per grant. The grant term is for one year and non-profit and for-profit organizations, public housing authorities, municipalities, faith-based organizations and community housing development organizations are eligible to apply. Applications will be evaluated on the proposed population served, need in the community, program sustainability, partnerships, organizational capacity, and program innovation, as well as several other key metrics.
Complete information on the program and how agencies and municipalities can apply, can be found online at: www.rihousing.com/rfps-rfqs. The deadline for submissions is January 26, 2022 at 3:00 pm EST.