The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) signed by President Biden on March 11, 2021 provides $7,171,000,00.00 for an Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) to assist schools and libraries to bridge the “Homework Gap” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Qualifying schools and libraries may obtain funding of up to 100% of the costs of eligible equipment and/or advanced telecommunications and information services, except that reimbursement may not exceed a reasonable amount as determined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Eligible equipment includes Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and connected devices (laptops, tablets, and similar end user devices). Eligible equipment and services may be used on school premises as well as other locations, and libraries may use eligible equipment and services for patrons on library premises or at other locations.
The FCC has until May 10, 2021 to adopt final rules implementing the ECF program, which will likely be administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company. On March 16, 2021, the FCC released a Public Notice seeking comments and reply comments on proposed ECF rules, which are due on April 5th and 23rd, respectively. It is likely that the FCC will implement ECF rules and procedures similar to those for the existing schools and libraries (E-Rate) program.
The ECF program ends on the June 30th after one year following the date that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finds the COVID-19 public health crisis has terminated.