Assembly Budget Includes New Statewide Digital Inclusion Grant Program

Speaker Heastie and Science & Technology Committee Chair Steven Otis today announced the Assembly's State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2021-22 Budget includes a new statewide $15 million Digital Inclusion Grant Program to assist local efforts to bring digital equity to individuals left out of today’s essential digital technology.

“The COVID-19 pandemic shined a light on the disparities that exist in access to digital technology and training,” said Speaker Heastie. “Digital inclusion programs supply the key elements needed to deliver up to date digital capability by providing home connectivity and devices, as well as the skills, training and technical support for disadvantaged individuals and households. This funding will help ensure that New Yorkers are not left behind as education, employment opportunities and even health care become more and more digitally based.”

“This Digital Inclusion Grant Program will address digital inequities by providing funding for local programs to deliver access, devices and training to underserved individuals and households,” said Assemblymember Otis. “The digital inclusion model empowers those who have been deprived of the access needed for learning, health care and employment.”

“The Assembly Majority has always known that education is the great equalizer, but this pandemic has made it clear that digital access is the new great equalizer,” said Education Committee Chair Michael Benedetto. “This investment will allow us to address the disparities in digital access and training to bring equity to all New Yorkers.”

“For countless New Yorkers, libraries are essential to accessing computers and the internet, which we know are critical to our daily lives, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Libraries and Education Technology Committee Chair Kimberly Jean-Pierre. “This funding will allow libraries to continue serving as community hubs that bridge technological gaps and promote digital inclusion for individuals, children and families across our state.”

This statewide grant program would be administered by the State Education Department (SED) in consultation with the Office for the Aging and the Department of Labor. Grants would be available on an application basis to not-for-profits, schools, libraries, local governments, municipal housing authorities and other community-based organizations seeking to provide digital inclusion programs.

Digital inclusion programs, also referred to as “digital equity” or “digital navigator” programs, are the model used throughout the country to address existing disparities in digital access because of cost, race, location and age. Local efforts at digital inclusion programs exist in parts of the state, and SED recently held two statewide digital equity summits to focus on the importance of digital inclusion and achieving digital equity in New York State.