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Senate Democrats to introduce bill boosting funding for student internet access

Senate Democrats to introduce bill boosting funding for student internet access
© Greg Nash

Four Senate Democrats on Thursday announced their intentions to introduce legislation aimed at ensuring that K-12 students have access to the internet amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced schools across the country to pivot to online learning. 

The Emergency Educational Connections Act would create a special $4 billion fund for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to disburse to schools and libraries to buy Wi-Fi hotspots, routers and internet-connected devices.

The legislation will be introduced by Sens. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyClimate progressives launch first action against Biden amid growing frustration Senate Democrats urge Google to conduct racial equity audit Senate climate advocates start digging in on infrastructure goals MORE (D-Mass.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocrats reintroduce bill to create 'millionaires surtax' Bass, Van Hollen to reintroduce bill to reform handling of nonviolent 911 calls Democrats to introduce bill to prevent default recurring political donations MORE (D-Md.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetSenate panel advances nominations for key Treasury positions Democrats blast Biden climate adviser over infrastructure remarks Colorado lawmakers invite Harris to tour state's space industry MORE (D-Colo.) and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanProgressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden ends infrastructure talks with key Republican | Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack | Texas gov signs bills to improve power grid after winter storm Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack MORE (D-N.H.) when the Senate returns to Washington next week.

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The bill will act as companion legislation Rep. Grace MengGrace MengHouse sends anti-Asian hate bill to Biden's desk Senate locks in hate crimes deal, setting up Thursday passage Jim Jordan, Val Demings get in shouting match about police during hearing MORE's (D-N.Y.) proposal in the House earlier this month, with the change of increasing the appropriation from $2 billion to $4 billion.

“The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated our existing ‘homework gap’ and spurred a growing ‘learning gap’ that will have a lasting impact on America’s children,” said the senators in a joint statement Thursday.

“Given the magnitude of this pandemic and its effects on teaching, we must increase our investment beyond $2 billion to $4 billion," they continued. "Our students come first, and we cannot allow any of them to fall behind as a result of this crisis. We are proud to enjoy the support of more than 50 organizations that focus every day on educating and protecting our nation’s youth.”

The legislation comes as schools across the country remain shuttered in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

That has moved many classes online, highlighting the millions of students in American who do not have internet access at home.

The so-called digital divide affects students every week, but has gained added importance and attention with the school closures.