FRANKFORT, Ky. (Aug. 29, 2022) – Kentucky public libraries have received more than $1.2 million in commitments from the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), a federal program to help schools and libraries provide the tools and services their communities need for remote learning.
“Grants from the Emergency Connectivity Fund help Kentucky public libraries build upon their success with the traditional E-rate program and address broadband needs in the communities they support,” said Terry Manuel, state librarian and commissioner for Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives (KDLA). “Participating libraries are then able to start or expand hotspot and laptop lending programs that otherwise would be cost-prohibitive.”
For the July 2021–June 2022 funding year, all Kentucky public library applications were approved for up to $1,063,405 in ECF discounts to be disbursed as libraries are invoiced for eligible products and services. The program deadline was extended to December 2023 because of the pandemic. So far, an additional $218,728 has been approved for the period between July 2022 and December 2023 with more applications under review.
The $7.171 billion Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fund was authorized by Congress through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to help address the homework gap for those who currently lack necessary Internet access or the devices they need to connect to classrooms or educational resources. For eligible schools and libraries, ECF will cover reasonable costs of laptop and tablet computers; Wi-Fi hotspots; modems; routers and broadband connectivity purchases for off-campus use by students, school staff and library patrons.
KDLA provides training and one-on-one consultations for public library staff in filing required forms to help ensure that libraries meet deadlines and follow the ECF program rules correctly.
In the first ECF funding year, 26 Kentucky public libraries received funding commitments for hotspot hardware and monthly cellular data, as well as connected devices such as laptops or tablets, for patron use outside the library. The combined requests will fund over 400 laptops or tablets and over 2,700 hotspots.
Recipients include Boone County Public Library; Bullitt County Public Library; George Coon Public Library in Caldwell County; Hopkinsville-Christian County Public Library; Crittenden County Public Library; Daviess County Public Library; Edmonson County Public Library; Hopkins County-Madisonville Public Library; Jackson County Public Library; Louisville Free Public Library; Jessamine County Public Library; Johnson County Public Library; Lincoln County Public Library; Madison County Public Library; Marshall County Public Library; McCracken County Public Library; Menifee County Public Library; William B. Harlan Memorial Library in Monroe County; Morgan County Public Library; Muhlenberg County Public Libraries; Ohio County Public Library; Pike County Public Library District; Todd County Public Library; Trimble County Public Library; Warren County Public Library, Corbin Public Library; and Wolfe County Public Library.
“Marshall County, like many areas of Kentucky, has internet deserts where reliable high-speed internet is not accessible. The lack of internet has been a major obstacle for students, employees and local employers as they attempt to navigate this new world of virtual living,” said Marshall County Public Library Director Tammy Blackwell. “The Emergency Connectivity Fund has allowed our library to purchase hotspots that we can lend to those patrons who need to get online to complete school and work assignments. For some of our patrons, it’s been a lifeline, connecting them to opportunities they would not have had otherwise.”
For more information on the Emergency Connectivity Fund program, visit https://www.emergencyconnectivityfund.org/. Kentucky public libraries may request filing assistance by contacting Lauren Abner at the KDLA at firstname.lastname@example.org or 502-564-1728.
KDLA provides equitable access to quality library and information resources and services, as well as helps public agencies ensure that legislatively mandated documentation of government programs is created, efficiently maintained and made accessible. For more information on KDLA resources, programs and services visit http://www.kdla.ky.gov or call 502-564-8303.