ALA launches resources for libraries to apply for $7.1 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund
For Immediate Release
Assistant Director, Communications
ALA Public Policy & Advocacy Office
WASHINGTON – To help libraries take advantage of the new $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program, the American Library Association (ALA) has created the ECF Solutions Toolkit. New resources summarize key ECF provisions and detail how public and tribal libraries can design, plan, and implement technology services using the new funding to serve library patrons who need it most.
Established as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) ECF program 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, teachers, and staff who otherwise lack internet access. Libraries participating in the ECF will receive 100 percent reimbursement of costs for eligible equipment and services and the ability to receive upfront reimbursement.
“The ECF presents an unprecedented funding opportunity for libraries to improve digital equity,” said Public Policy & Advocacy Deputy Director Larra Clark. “Now is the moment to think big about how your library can use new funding to boost current technology lending efforts to reach more people or launch new services to connect your community.”
Libraries and schools can apply for funding for the purchase of eligible equipment and services made between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022. The application window for the ECF program will open on Tuesday, June 29, and close on Friday, August 13.
The toolkit, located on ALA’s ECF web page, includes five scenarios that provide step-by-step guidance modeled on examples collected from libraries across the country—in rural, suburban, and urban communities. Options include tablet or laptop lending, hotspot lending, creating community Wi-Fi hotspot zones, and subsidizing home internet access.
ALA actively advocated with Congress for ARPA funding and with the FCC for flexibility for libraries to effectively use new funds; outreach continues to seek clarification on issues such as document retention requirements. The web page will be updated regularly.
ALA also encourages libraries to take advantage of other ARPA funds to support related digital inclusion needs, such as programming, staffing, and staff training.
“Improving broadband access and digital equity continues to be a top priority as part of national infrastructure negotiations, and different programs will provide different opportunities for libraries and the communities we serve,” Clark added.
ALA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office will hold an on-demand session, Get Funding, Connect Your Community, about the ECF during ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition (Virtual), June 23-29, 2021.
UPDATE: ALA is partnering with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), administrator of the ECF program, to host an informational webinar on Friday, June 25 at 11:00 EDT. The webinar will provide a high-level overview of the program, the steps required to apply successfully and time for your questions. Register here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6040579859867058191