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$7.2 Billion Federal Emergency Connectivity Fund Accepting Applications

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The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 includes $7.17 billion for the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program. The ECF 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.

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. The application window for the ECF program opened June 29 and will stay open until August 13.

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 American Library Association (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.