King County’s Office of Equity and Social Justice this week awarded $2 million in grants to 29 local groups, agencies, and organizations that aim to increase digital equity and literacy in communities most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each family needs access to broadband and technology to fully participate in an increasingly digital world. Yet 20 percent of King County households are underserved and do not have home-based broadband, according to King County’s 2020 Broadband Access Study. Communities of color and lower-income households face challenges related to affordability, digital literacy, and access to devices. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the digital divide, as a lack of reliable wi-fi or digital devices at home could mean an adult unable to work from home, a student unable to connect to their online learning, or a household unable to access COVID-19 health information.
To help King County residents and families attain improved education, health and wellbeing, and economic outcomes, this grant program provides direct support to community partners promoting digital access, broadband adoption, literacy, and inclusion. The award recipients will increase digital equity and literacy through various ways, including but not limited to, classroom instruction and skills-based workshops, navigation services, technical support, subsidized or pre-paid service plans, and loan-to-own device programs. These grants funded by federal dollars will provide linguistically and culturally appropriate services in communities that face barriers accessing digital services.
“Funding from the digital equity grant will provide essential technology resources for the Latino immigrant community, supporting children and families to break down the digital divide,” said Virginia Herrera-Páramo, Executive Director, Para Los Niños. “Digital access is a lifeline to help meet our communities’ basic needs and access educational programs to help Latino parents and children thrive.”
“To support vibrant communities, we must remove barriers that prevent people from full and equitable digital engagement. Thank you to our community partners that are working to create equitable access to the internet and digital devices so every individual and family in King County can thrive in this increasingly digital world,” said Anita Whitfield, Director of King County’s Office of Equity and Social Justice and Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer.
“The King County digital equity grant will allow us to provide greater access to up-to-date technology and training that gives youth and families in our program the opportunity to thrive in the digital world, today and in the future,” said Cyoon McBride, After School Director of Kent Youth and Family Services. “We have seen that when youth participants are provided opportunities to develop their digital literacy skills, they are inspired to continue learning, which may ultimately lead them to pursuing careers in the technology field. I think the most rewarding thing is watching youth get excited about technology, and seeing their faces light up when they learn something new and showcase their skills by teaching what they learned to friends and family.”
Grant awardees (local orgs are bold-faced):
- Ada Developers Academy
- Afghan Health Initiative (Kent)
- Black Brilliance Research
- Child Haven (Burien)
- Compass Housing Alliance
- Computing For All
- Downtown Emergency Services Center (Burien around 2023)
- El Centro de la Raza
- Empowering Youth & Families Outreach
- Ethiopian Community in Seattle
- Evergreen Goodwill of Northwest Washington
- Freedom Project
- International Rescue Committee, Inc. (SeaTac)
- Kent Youth and Family Services
- Kin On Health Care Center
- Korean Community Service Center
- Latinx Unidos of the South Sound
- Lighthouse for the Blind
- Literacy Source
- Living Well Kent
- Muslim Community and Neighborhood Association
- NAMI Eastside (National Alliance on Mental Illness, East King County, WA)
- Para Los Niños
- Refugee Women’s Alliance
- Renton Technical College
- Seattle Jobs Initiative
- Sno-Valley Senior Center (Partner: Sound Generation)
- Sound Generations- Lake City-Northgate Senior Center Project
Funding was awarded based on the likelihood of sustainability and impact. Successful applicants also demonstrated proximity to and effectiveness in serving Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), seniors, limited English proficient residents (LEP), individuals with disabilities and communication barriers, low-income, unemployed, and underemployed residents, and those experiencing homelessness or residing in rural areas.
A complete list of awardees and grant amounts will be posted on the Digital Equity Grants website.