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Meng and Booker Urge Trump to Increase Mobile Hotspots During Coronavirus Outbreak to Help Students Complete Schoolwork

Mar 13, 2020
Press Release
Lawmakers call on President to allocate funding following his issuing of emergency declaration; Digital divide acutely impacts low-income students, students of color
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) today sent a letter to President Trump urging him to increase the availability of mobile hotspots during the coronavirus outbreak to help students complete their schoolwork.
 
In their correspondence, Meng and Booker called on the President to set aside at least $1 billion in emergency declaration funds so that schools and libraries can purchase the hotspots. The President issued an emergency declaration this afternoon.
 
“As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) begins advising schools to plan for possible interruptions, and as many schools shift toward a virtual classroom, we urge you to take action to protect the educational opportunities for the 12 million American students who live in homes without a broadband connection,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter, noting that low-income students, and students of color would be hardest hit.
 
“Schools in urban and rural areas are racing against the clock to develop and implement plans that allow their students to learn from home because of the novel coronavirus; but for those students who lack broadband access, they will continue to suffer because of the ‘homework gap,’ said Congresswoman Meng. “This must not be the case, and with President Trump issuing an emergency declaration, he must set aside funds for schools and libraries to purchase mobile hotspots. In the House, I’ve introduced the Closing the Homework Gap Through Mobile Hotspots Act (H.R. 5243), which would create a grant program to help schools and libraries set up their own mobile hotspot lending programs. But the coronavirus demands immediate action, and I’m honored to work with Senator Booker in calling on the President to protect the academic success of our students.”
 
The text of Meng and Booker’s letter is below and a copy of the correspondence can be viewed here.
 
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March 13, 2020
 
The Honorable Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
 
Dear President Trump: 
 
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) begins advising schools to plan for possible interruptions, and as many schools shift toward a virtual classroom, we urge you to take action to protect the educational opportunities for the 12 million American students who live in homes without a broadband connection.
 
As schools and school districts are beginning to shift instruction online in an effort to protect their students from the spread of COVID-19, there are approximately 12 million students across the country that fall into “the homework gap,” meaning they do not have access to the technology they need to participate in an online learning environment.[1] In 15 states across the country, the majority of students in rural areas do not have access to broadband.[2]  And, the lack of access to broadband is particularly concerning for low-income students and students of color as these groups are less likely to have access to broadband than their counterparts[3].
 
Now that you have issued an emergency declaration pursuant to the Stafford Act for states preparing for and responding to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, we urge you to set aside at least $1 billion of the $42.6 billion available in the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) for schools and libraries to purchase mobile hotspots, and for the Federal Communications Commission to use its universal service powers, so that all students can continue to learn while we work together to respond to the spread of COVID-19. Given the current circumstances, students without access to broadband risk being left behind, a scenario that could cause irreparable harm to the long-term education of 12 million American children.
 
Several local school districts across the country have already taken action and provided mobile hotspots to students without broadband access, but not all students live in communities that have the resources to provide for those students. Federal assistance is needed to ensure that the challenges faced by our most vulnerable students are not exacerbated by this crisis. It is critical that your response to the COVID-19 outbreak consider the needs of these students, and we strongly urge you to provide the necessary resources to allow them to continue learning. 
 
Sincerely,
 
 
CC: 
The Honorable Betsy Devos, Secretary of Education
The Honorable Ajit Pai, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission