Leader McClinton, Rep. Zabel announce $476K grant for William Penn School District

HARRISBURG, Oct. 1 – PA House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton and state Rep. Mike Zabel announced today William Penn School District has been approved for a grant of $476,468 in the first wave of funding from the Emergency Connectivity Fund to help close the digital divide for schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Students, teachers, administrators and staff have overcome an impressive number of obstacles during the COVID-19 pandemic through their own perseverance and willingness to adapt,” McClinton said. “Today’s announcement provides necessary funds to keep our children safe and on target to continue learning. The grant, however, is also a stark reminder that inequities exist throughout the state where every child and every household in Pennsylvania is not on equal footing when it comes to funding, technology and parental support.” 

The Emergency Connectivity Fund Program will reimburse schools and libraries for the reasonable costs of eligible equipment and broadband connections used to help students, staff and patrons who otherwise lack access to be able to engage in remote learning.

“Unfortunately, remote learning has magnified many of the inequities in our public school system,” Zabel said. “So, I’m thankful this program exists, and it’s rewarding to see one of our local districts receive money to help bridge the gap to provide off-site learning and internet access.”  

Of the total grant awarded to William Penn School District, $444,248 has been earmarked for equipment obligations. The remainder of the grant – more than $32,000 – will be spent on services needed.

McClinton and Zabel also reminded schools in the region that the second application window for funding is now open, and applications are being accepted until Oct. 13, 2021. During the application filing window, eligible schools, libraries and consortia of eligible schools and libraries can submit requests for funding to purchase eligible equipment and services between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022. Those that applied for the first round and have additional unmet needs are eligible to reapply.

Eligible applicants should apply at www.emergencyconnectivityfund.org.

In addition to the grant for William Penn School District, McClinton also announced an additional $16 million in funding has been awarded for Philadelphia schools, including $39,242 for Youth Build Philadelphia Charter School.

Created through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund is considered the nation’s largest single effort to ensure students have access to the digital devices and resources they need for the school year. The program will also help libraries offer their patrons internet connectivity and digital devices to continue their learning at home.

ECF is a $7.17 billion program that will help schools and libraries provide the tools and services during the COVID-19 emergency period. ECF provides relief to millions of students, school staff and library patrons and will help close the homework gap for students who currently lack necessary internet access or the devices they need to connect to classrooms.

A total of $20.57 million in funding was awarded in the initial funding wave to 126 applicants, including 86 school districts, 28 schools, 10 libraries and two consortiums.