Cleveland Program Will Fund Computers, Internet for Low-Income Households

The Cleveland Foundation announced a nearly $500,000 grant to support the PCs for People initiative, which aims to close the digital divide.

by Marcia Pledger, The Plain Dealer / October 10, 2018

(TNS) — CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland Foundation announced today a $488,000 grant to fund a new program that attempts to close the digital divide in Northeast Ohio.

The foundation's goal is to provide education, advocacy and awareness support to help more lower-income households have access to technology.

As part of the digital divide initiative, PCs for People, an organization that recycles business electronics and offers refurbished tech to low-income households, opened a temporary Cleveland store today at 6005 Francis Ave. in Slavic Village. The store will stock refurbished desktop and laptop computers at a range of prices, while a limited number of free computers also will be available each day. A permanent location, at E. 31st and St. Clair Avenue, is expected to open in early in 2019.

"What I'm particularly excited about is that PC's for People offers an opportunity for economic empowerment through digital inclusion," said Bryan Mauk, executive director of PCs for People in Cleveland.

PCs for People will also provide unlimited 4G LTE mobile Internet hot-spots with data plans priced at $10 per month with an annual contract, and $15 for a month-by-month contract.

"When you think about the power that a computer and the Internet bring to being plugged into not only the community, but into the economic and job market, everything nowadays is done online," he said. "From food stamps and being unemployed in need of a job, to connecting to your family and kids, and getting news, everything is online. You can imagine the loneliness of not having a computer."

Huntington National Bank is also contributing $50,000 to the effort that includes free library hot-spot lending programs and a PCs for People location in Cleveland.

Based in St. Paul, Minnesota, PCs for People allows residents below 200 percent of the poverty level (currently $24,280 for an individual) or currently enrolled in an income-based government assistance program to purchase refurbished computers, in addition to providing flat-fee tech support and repair services.

Sari Feldman, executive director of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, said she's grateful to the Cleveland Foundation for the new hot-spot lending program.

"Improving access to a high-speed Internet connection in the home opens opportunity for people whose online needs don't necessarily begin and end with the open hours of their nearest public library," she said in a written statement.

Even though 85 percent of the nation has access to broadband Internet, less than half of the households in the lowest income bracket have an Internet subscription at home.

"People cannot successfully apply for a job, complete online homework assignments or stay connected to family if they don't have access to technology and a level of proficiency in using it. We believe the Cleveland Foundation's approach to partnering with Cleveland Public Library, Cuyahoga County Public Library and CMHA will help advance our region's efforts in digital inclusion," Feldman said.

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