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American Rescue Plan includes billions to help bridge the digital divide for distance learning

Posted at 8:05 AM, Mar 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-15 10:05:35-04

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden recently signed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to help the nation defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and recover from the financial ravages brought on by the pandemic.

The plan includes $7 billion earmarked for closing a "digital divide" in American schools by funding programs to help ensure K-12 students and teachers have the appropriate internet connections and devices for distance learning.

"The funding is specifically directed at low-income students and students with disabilities. In order to be best prepared for future out-of-school learning time, there will also be funding directed at planning to provide technology to all students, and supporting eligible schools and libraries in providing, among other things, eligible connected devices, internet service, and hotspots to students and teachers for internet use at home," a posting on the National Education Association website says.

According to the nonprofit group Common Sense, 24 percent of Utah students and nine percent of Utah teachers do not have internet access. Common Sense also reports 12 percent of Utah students and one percent of Utah teachers do not have the necessary devices, such as laptop computers or tablets, for distance learning.

Across the United States, 18 percent of white students, 26 percent of Latinx students, 30 percent of Black students and 35 percent of Native American students lack the proper internet connectivity needed for distance learning, Common Sense's research shows.

It's unclear when Utah might start to receive its allocation of funding for closing the digital divide.

Watch FOX 13 for updates as they become available.