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Letter to Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Leader McConnell, and Leader Schumer - Meng Urges House and Senate Leaders to Ensure Students Have Internet Access for Remote Learning During COVID-19 Crisis

Letter

By: Marc Veasey, Brendan Boyle, Jerry Nadler, G.K. Butterfield, Jr., Stephen Lynch, John Yarmuth, Robin Kelly, Abby Finkenauer, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Jerry McNerney, Doris Matsui, Terri Sewell, Pramila Jayapal, Peter Welch, Donald McEachin, Eddie Johnson, David Cicilline, Peter DeFazio, Tim Ryan, Joyce Beatty, John Sarbanes, Ayanna Pressley, Jim McGovern, André Carson, Jan Schakowsky, Dave Loebsack, Hank Johnson, Jr., Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Josh Harder, Denny Heck, Vicente Gonzalez, Steve Cohen, Earl Blumenauer, Marcia Fudge, Yvette Clarke, Alma Adams, Elissa Slotkin, Edward Case, Michael San Nicolas, John Larson, Juan Vargas, Tony Cárdenas, Salud Carbajal, Ruben Gallego, Gwen Moore, Adam Smith, Mary Scanlon, Suzanne Bonamici, Eliot Engel, Don Payne, Jr., Debbie Dingell, David Trone, Dutch Ruppersberger, Lori Trahan, Danny Davis, Jesus Garcia, Cindy Axne, Kathy Castor, Darren Soto, Joe Neguse, Adam Schiff, Mike Thompson, Derek Kilmer, Jennifer Wexton, Sylvia Garcia, Brian Higgins, José Serrano, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Adriano Espaillat, Thomas Suozzi, Steven Horsford, Susie Lee, Ben Lujan, Jr., Deb Haaland, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Albio Sires, Cedric Richmond, Bobby Rush, Donna Shalala, Alcee Hastings, Sr., Eleanor Norton, Jahana Hayes, Jim Himes, Diana DeGette, Mike Levin, Linda Sánchez, T. J. Cox, Jimmy Panetta, Jim Costa, Barbara Lee, Jared Huffman, Raul Grijalva, Mark Pocan, Sheila Jackson Lee, Susan Wild, Dwight Evans, Nydia Velázquez, Rashida Tlaib, Joe Kennedy III, Alan Lowenthal, Grace Napolitano, Grace Meng
Date: May 8, 2020

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader McConnell, and Minority Leader Schumer:

We are grateful for your swift and steadfast leadership in securing the well-being and economic health of our nation. As you craft the next coronavirus relief package, we request the inclusion of the Emergency Educational Connections Act of 2020, H.R. 6563. The Emergency Educational Connections Act of 2020 will ensure schools and libraries, including tribal schools and libraries can purchase Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-enabled devices to provide internet connectivity to students during this unprecedented time.

As you know, to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, schools across the nation have closed--many for the remainder of the school year. This has impacted over 55 million students across 124,000 U.S. public and private schools.[1] For millions of students without internet access at home, they face an uncertain educational future that could have long-term consequences for their overall success.

Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, however, the "homework gap,' had proven to be a pernicious problem. According to Pew Research, 15 percent of households with school aged children did not have internet access based on 2015 Census data, and some studies have estimated that as many as 12 million students may lack internet access at home.[2] These trends, unfortunately, are even more pronounced for minorities and low-income households.[3] Before the pandemic hit, about 7 in 10 teachers assigned homework that required internet access; today, schools across the country have moved learning entirely online, including class meetings, explanations of new content, virtual field trips, homework, and learning exercises. Students without internet service will fall further behind as students with internet service at home can continue advancing in their studies. Whether they live in urban centers, suburbs, or exurbs, or small communities in rural America, all students require internet connectivity to succeed during this pandemic.

We were grateful to see a provision in the House Democrats' Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act, that would have provided $2 billion in funding to provide students with Wi-Fi hotspots and internet-enabled devices for the duration of this health crisis. Unfortunately, this provision was not included in the Senate's Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. We must correct this omission, which is why we strongly urge the inclusion of the Emergency Educational Connections Act of 2020 in the next package. This legislation would empower the Federal Communications Commission to disburse $2 billion from a special Emergency Connectivity Fund to schools and libraries, including tribal schools and libraries.

As the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic continues and millions of Americans are asked to stay home for the sake of everyone's health, we must ensure our most vulnerable constituents--including students--are not left behind. We thank you for your leadership and attention to this critical issue.


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