March 13, 2021

Van Hollen, Markey, Bennet, and Hassan and Congresswoman Meng Applaud the Inclusion of More Than $7 Billion in E-Rate Distance Learning Funding in American Rescue Plan

Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06) today applauded the inclusion of their legislation, the Emergency Educational Connections Act, and more than $7 billion in funding for the E-Rate program in the coronavirus rescue package that President Biden signed into law Thursday. 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.

“Twelve million students across the United States still lack internet access to continue their education from home during the coronavirus pandemic. While this ‘homework gap’ long predates this public health crisis, without access to the technology and tools required for remote learning, our most vulnerable students face a more damaging learning and opportunity gap,” said the lawmakers in a joint statement. “With President Biden’s signature on the American Rescue Plan this week, we are finally providing the necessary funding to ensure that all K-12 students can continue their studies online until schools fully reopen as well as the funding to begin to permanently close this homework gap.” 

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.