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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 MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyBitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court FCC reaffirms order rolling back net neutrality regulations Markey rips GOP for support of Amy Coney Barrett: Originalism 'just a fancy word for discrimination' MORE (D-Mass.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Democratic senators offer bill to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers MORE (D-Md.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetSenate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Cotton mocks NY Times over claim of nonpartisanship, promises to submit op-eds as test Democrats sense momentum for expanding child tax credit MORE (D-Colo.) and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanGOP coronavirus bill blocked as deal remains elusive Hollywood gives Biden's digital campaign final star-studded push Democrats step up hardball tactics as Supreme Court fight heats up 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 passes resolution condemning anti-Asian discrimination relating to coronavirus Clark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race This week: House returns for pre-election sprint 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.