Today, the Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC) and Comcast announced a partnership to provide in-home, high-speed Internet service to Housing Authority residents with school-age children through the Internet Essentials Partnership Program (IEPP).
The service, which will be free of charge to qualifying HACC residents for the 2020-21 school year, will allow students to participate in their schools’ remote learning programs, as well as provide Internet access to other members of the household.
“It is estimated that one-quarter of our Cook County residents lack high-speed internet, and those rates are much higher for people of color,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “We cannot allow a quarter of Cook County to fall further behind as we recover, digitally, during the next phase of this crisis. This program is representative of the opportunity that exists when we break down the silos of government and look toward innovative solutions beyond our day-to-day work. I applaud Executive Director Monocchio and his staff for thinking outside the arena of affordable housing to provide solutions to our residents’ most pressing needs, and to Comcast for engaging in this meaningful partnership.”
Under the agreement, HACC will purchase 10 months of Comcast’s Internet Essentials service on behalf of eligible residents who enroll by December 31, 2020. The program is funded by dollars allocated to the County through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and is being offered to nearly 14,000 children residing in over 6,500 households across suburban Cook County.
“HACC is committed to helping our families weather the coronavirus crisis in every way we can,” said HACC Executive Director Richard Monocchio. “We’re excited about this partnership and grateful to Comcast in bringing this service to thousands of HACC residents. The low-income residents we serve deserve access to the resources necessary to adapt to the pandemic, not only by ensuring they remain stably housed, but also by providing access to food, healthcare and educational supports.”
With the 2020-21 academic school year gearing up now throughout the region and with COVID-19 cases again on the rise, families with school-aged children are preparing for unprecedented challenges in the classroom. Most schools are planning to begin the year either remotely or using a hybrid system that is partially remote. Without strategic interventions, the disruption to schooling threatens to widen the educational achievement gap between high- and low-income students, , especially in areas with under-resourced school districts where many families cannot afford Internet access.
“Internet Essentials has helped millions of Americans gain access to the Internet at home since it launched nine years ago,” said Matthew Summy, Comcast’s Regional Vice President of External Affairs. “We’re proud to partner with HACC to connect its residents to the internet at a time when access to remote learning and online services are even more crucial.”
Since Internet Essentials was launched in 2011, more than 2 million nationwide have connected to the Internet at home through the Comcast program. Almost 90 percent had no form of broadband access until they enrolled in the program.
Internet Essentials provides Internet Service at home to eligible, low-income households for $9.95 a month plus applicable taxes and fees. Traditionally, individual households pay for the service. Through Internet Essentials Partnership Program, housing authorities, school districts and other entities can purchase the service on behalf of their residents or students.
“We at HUD are very proud of the public-partnerships underway in an effort to obtain internet access and level the playing field for the families we serve,” indicated HUD Midwest Regional Administrator Joseph P. Galvan. “CARES Act funding will be put to great use in bridging the digital divide for children served by HACC across Cook County.”
HACC has begun to reach out to eligible families regarding program registration information. Residents can also reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-663-5447 with questions. For more information on the IEPP, visit http://corporate.comcast.com/internet-essentials-partnership-program.