The White House, Hennepin County, sponsors the Internet rebate program

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With the start of the new school year, White House and Hennepin County officials this week encouraged households to enroll in a new federal program that discounts Internet services and laptops for low-income families.

The program called Affordable connectivity program, is included in the recently passed bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Employment Act. Eligible households receive a discount of up to $30 on internet service, up to $75 for people living in tribal areas, and a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet or desktop -Computer.

Since the pandemic began in 2020, Hennepin County has also committed $15 million to its digital equity strategy, said Marion Greene, the county’s chief executive officer, speaking at a news conference with Mitch Landrieu, senior advisor to President Joe Biden and White’s infrastructure coordinator House, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell attended. The county has provided Internet services to more than 2,900 homes.

“Almost every way the county engages with the public is online,” Greene said. “It can be social services, libraries, schools and the criminal justice system.”

Landrieu reiterated her point, saying high-speed internet is essential for success as school teaches remotely and people use telemedicine during the pandemic.

“You can’t sit in the back of your parents’ car at McDonald’s and try to get internet access,” he said.

More than 13 million homes across the country have taken advantage of the rebate program, which Landrieu said has put hundreds of millions of dollars back in people’s pockets. The rebate is available to households receiving federal financial assistance, he said. The program also targets students at the 33,000 schools that offer free lunches, he said.

The White House has been working “day and night” to enroll households in the program, he said. The US Department of Education has emailed schools and students, providing toolkits and flyers about the program, and in July Landrieu wrote to each governor to spread the word.

“We have already seen great progress,” said Landrieu.

Several cities have found new ways to promote the program. New York City had 1,700 principals putting flyers in the backpacks of a million students, Mesa, Arizona texted parents, while Virginia created a public service announcement to be shown in the boroughs.

Seattle Mayor Harrell said the inclusion of internet finance in the Infrastructure Act signals the importance it plays in everyday life and in reducing inequalities. The city had set a goal of connecting 20,000 homes to the Internet, but it surpassed the total by more than 2,000. The city also provided $6 million to help offset costs, he said.

“We have to move on,” Harrell said. “We don’t do laps of honor.”

The city produced flyers about the program in six languages ​​and had people walking through neighborhoods to help people register. He said children are now realizing that the Internet is no longer just an entertainment tool.

Hennepin County used similar strategies to connect homes to the Internet. The county not only focused on urban areas, but also on less populated suburban areas that may not have adequate Internet access, Greene said. People who signed up received cyber safety training and culture-specific training, she said.

“It’s exciting to see this launch,” she said.

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