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How the Sacramento area plans to close the digital divide amid pandemic

United Way will be giving refurbished desktop computers to up to 500 people per year and up to 2,000 households will be given internet access.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — United Way California Capital Region entered a three-year partnership with Sacramento, Rancho Cordova, and SMUD to close the local digital divide by giving computers and internet to those who historically did not have access. 

United Way is working with community-based non-profits to identify households eligible for broadband assistance and basic digital literacy. They will be giving refurbished desktop computers to up to 500 people per year and up to 2,000 households will be given internet access.

According to United Way's news release, more than 24 million households nationwide are not connected to the internet. About 35% of adults who do not use broadband at home are older, poorer, less educated and more likely to be a part of a racial or ethnic minority than those who do have a connection. 

Amber Lovett, the interim-president and CEO of United Way California Capital Region, said the digital divide expanded amid the pandemic as many parents worked from home and children were educated remotely. 

“We need to address this issue immediately, and we need to be looking at how we can continue working toward digital equity long after the pandemic ends," Lovett said. "This program is doing exactly that, and we are grateful to have so many community partners who recognize that this is a systemic issue and critical for achieving equity across the region.”

Mayor Pro Tem Angelique Ashby, who spearheaded United Way's pilot program in 2020, said in a news release that bridging the digital divide is a moral imperative for Northern California.  

"Championing this effort during the pandemic has been an honor and has created a path forward to continuing the work of connecting our neighborhoods to affordable, fast, reliable access to the internet," Ashby said 

The program is paid through by the cities of Sacramento and Rancho Cordova, SMUD and United Way California Capital Region. Mackenzie Scott, a billionaire philanthropist, also donated $10 million as well.

Click here to see what are the eligibility requirements for the United Way program. 

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