BroadbandOhio Awards More Than $650K in Grants

COLUMBUS, Ohio – More than $650,000 in funding to support efforts to advance digital opportunities in communities across the state was announced Monday by BroadbandOhio, a division of the Ohio Department of Development.

“This is another positive step in our effort to make sure that every Ohioan can participate in the modern economy, education and health care system,” Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said. “These grants will help address barriers to broadband accessibility through local programs across the state.”

BroadbandOhio awarded a total of $654,590 through the state’s Digital Inclusion Pilot Project Grant to help nine community-based, nonprofit organizations address barriers in digital access for low-income Ohioans, elderly populations, justice-involved individuals, veterans, people with disabilities and language barriers, rural residents and racial and ethnic minorities.

BroadbandOhio awarded grants to the following organizations:

  • The Ashtabula County Farm Bureau will receive $23,200 in grants for a rural connectivity project. The project is a partnership between the farm bureaus in Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull counties to bridge the digital divide in rural northeast Ohio by providing tech support and digital skills training for agri-businesses and residents.
  • Central Community House will receive $92,800 in grants for a technology access project to expand existing programming, including technology-oriented classes, workshops and one-on-one assistance for seniors. Participants in the programs will receive devices and adaptive accessories for those with physical limitations.
  • Hocking Athens Perry Community Action will receive $100,000 in grants to add a second digital navigator role to the office to increase capacity for technical support and device distribution to covered populations. This role has been crucial to HAPCAP’s partnership with PCs for People’s Cleveland office to support the distribution of refurbished devices in the community.
  • The Ohio University – Office of Digital Accessibility will receive $26,758 in grants to improve document accessibility on the university’s website for people with disabilities. The project will remediate existing documents, provide training for key faculty and staff to create accessible content and ensure the sustainability of accessible document practices going forward.
  • Accompanying Returning Citizens with Hope will receive $100,000 in grants to distribute devices, provide digital literacy support and encourage enrollment in the Grow with Google program to justice-involved individuals, returning citizens and those participating in Café Overlook’s workforce development program.
  • The Spanish American Committee will receive $100,000 in grants to support the Families First Program, which will provide Latino/Hispanic individuals and families with a caseworker specifically focused on supporting digital access and literacy. Case managers will help connect clients to high-speed internet, access devices and gain digital skills.
  • Mercy Health – Toledo will receive $100,000 in grants to advance the Get Your Business Rolling program. The project will allow the organization to expand the program to additional Zip codes in the Toledo area to support a greater population of diverse and female entrepreneurs. The program includes an entrepreneurial training class, strategic support, device access and additional opportunities for growth and training through the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library upon completion.
  • National Church Residences will receive $43,450 in grants to promote Affordable Connectivity Program enrollment events at senior housing communities throughout the state. Events will be staffed to support one-on-one enrollment and internet service sign-up assistance for participating residents. This initiative will be used to develop an ACP Enrollment Guide for Senior Affordable Housing that can be used across the National Church Residences network.
  • Goodwill Columbus will receive $68,382 in grants to create a donation, refurbishment and distribution process to meet the region’s need for high-quality, low-cost digital devices. Residents will be able to purchase refurbished devices at Goodwill Columbus retail store locations across Franklin County. The project will also create a device bank facilitated by a digital platform to identify and distribute devices to community-based organizations.

“Everything we’re doing to close the digital divide at the state level cannot be accomplished without the support and efforts of our local partners,” said Lydia Mihalik, director of the Department of Development. “These organizations are providing their communities with resources that, quite simply, would not exist otherwise. This is going to improve the quality of life for so many people.”

Funding for the program came from the federal State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program, which provides $60 million to help states develop a plan for achieving digital equity goals and closing the digital divide.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.