The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 includes $7.17 billion for the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program. The ECF, run by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), will provide funding for public and tribal libraries and K12 schools to purchase connected devices and broadband internet connections for use off of library and school grounds by library patrons, students, and teachers and staff who otherwise don't have internet access.
The ECF presents an unprecedented funding opportunity for libraries to expand broadband equity to those who need it most beyond the confines of library walls. With 100 percent reimbursement of costs for eligible equipment and services and the ability to receive upfront reimbursement, now is the moment to think big about how your library can leverage new funding to boost current technology lending efforts to reach more people or launch new services to connect your community…or both! Your library may also take advantage of other ARPA funds to support related digital inclusion needs, such as programming, staffing, and staff training.
Across the country, libraries used the first application window to apply for significant funding for innovative programs. Examples of proposals in library applications include:
- In Hawai'i, a library applied for $100,000 in funding to purchase Chromebooks that would accompany preexisting hotspots for a telehealth access program
- In Kentucky, a rural library system applied for funding in partnership with the local city government to supply 2,000 hotspots to residents on a 1 year loan period
- In Texas, an urban library applied for funding to purchase over 30,000 hotspots and Chromebooks to distribute to students in partnership with local school districts
To help libraries take advantage of this one-time infusion of funding to offset expenses associated with providing off-premises connectivity to library patrons who need it most, the ALA Public Policy & Advocacy Office has created the Emergency Connectivity Fund Solutions Toolkit.
The Toolkit includes five scenarios that reflect the most common ways libraries have worked to connect their communities using ECF-eligible equipment and provide detailed guidance modeled on examples collected from libraries across the country—in rural, suburban, and urban communities. Regardless of where your library is starting, there is a connectivity scenario to help you leverage new funding. The “Preparing to Apply” guide tells you what you need to be doing right now to be ready when the application window for funding opens. Need more state-specific information to help guide your application? Contact your State E-rate Coordinator for guidance.
- Preparing to Apply for the ECF Program
- Sample AUP & Statement of Need
- Sample Device Inventory Solution
- How-To Guide for Form 471
- USAC Emergency Connectivity Fund home page (ECF application located here)
- USAC live training webinars for potential applicants (starting June 16, 2021)
- FCC Emergency Connectivity Fund home page
- FCC Emergency Connectivity Fund Application Q&A
After receiving input from ALA and other stakeholders, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published the rules and policies for the ECF program on May 11, 2021. While the ECF program is not the same as the federal E-rate program, it will leverage some existing E-rate forms and processes to expedite implementation.
Libraries and schools can apply for funding for the purchase of eligible equipment and services made between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022. This web page will be updated regularly.
The ECF program does not exist in a vacuum. The American Rescue Plan Act also included $200 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the largest single investment in the agency’s 25-year history, providing emergency funding for library expenses brought on by the pandemic. IMLS is distributing ARPA funding to State Library Administrative Agencies and via competitive grants.
- Institute of Museum & Library Services: Federal Government Invests $200 Million in Libraries and Museums to Stimulate American Communities
- ALA, SHLB, NDIA Webinar: Q&A, Libraries and the Emergency Connectivity Fund
- ALA ECF Q&A: Instagram Live ECF Q&A with library leaders (To watch with captions, view video using the Instagram app)
- Directory of State Library Administrative Agencies
- American Rescue Plan - Library Relief
- State E-rate Coordinator Contact List
- Letter to FCC requesting a delay in the implementation of patron data requirements (July 12, 2021)
- Letter to FCC advocating for clarifications regarding patron data retention in the ECF program (June 28, 2021)
- Comments to FCC regarding rulemaking for the ECF program (April 5, 2021)
Deputy Director, Public Policy & Advocacy
Senior Policy Advocate, Public Policy & Advocacy