February 10, 2021

Van Hollen, Markey, Bennet, Hassan, and Rep. Meng Applaud Inclusion of More Than $7 Billion in Distance Learning Funding in Latest House Coronavirus Proposal

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-01) 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 House coronavirus relief reconciliation proposal. The lawmakers’ legislation funds elementary and secondary 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. 

“We are excited to see our legislation that funds K-12 distance learning included in the latest coronavirus relief package unveiled by the House of Representatives,” said the Senators. “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. 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.” 

Since the E-Rate program began nearly two decades ago, more than $54 billion has been invested nationwide to provide internet access for schools and libraries. 

Last week, Senator Van Hollen joined Senator Markey in leading a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging the agency’s new leadership to leverage the E-Rate program to provide connectivity and devices for remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic. Senator Van Hollen previously urged Senate leadership to include dedicated funding for closing the homework gap within the federal coronavirus response. Additionally, Senator Van Hollen wrote to the State of Maryland last April requesting that they allocate funds from the CARES Act toward providing web access and devices to students. Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Van Hollen had introduced legislation to address this systemic issue long-term.