PHILLIPSBURG, NJ (Warren County) – HUD’s ConnectHomeUSA, an initiative aimed at narrowing the digital divide in HUD-assisted communities across the country, selected three new communities in New Jersey to join the 2020 ConnectHomeUSA Community Cohort. The designations will bring technical assistance resources that will enable public housing authorities in Atlantic City, Elizabeth, and Phillipsburg to provide low-cost internet, devices, and digital literacy training to its residents.
Under the leadership of national nonprofit EveryoneOn and supported by HUD, ConnectHomeUSA assists selected communities in building place-based solutions for narrowing the digital divide. The digital divide disproportionately impacts low-income communities, primarily due to cost. Having an in-home Internet connection , a device, and the training to use them enables HUD-assisted families, students, seniors, and job seekers to access information, employment opportunities, and connections that will foster self-sufficiency.
“Never before has this initiative been so relevant. HUD-assisted families that lack internet access and need to work and study remotely due to COVID-19, ConnectHome will assist selected communities connect to low-cost internet offers, affordable devices, which will be critical to families and students whose lives have been upended by the pandemic,” said Lynne Patton, HUD Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey. Broadband access and devices are a lifeline for job seekers and a way for seniors to access telehealth and stay in touch with their families. I congratulate these communities for taking action to improve the lives of their residents.”
ConnectHomeUSA, a public-private collaboration to narrow the digital divide for HUD-assisted residents, creates a platform for community leaders, local governments, nonprofit organizations, and private industry to join together and produce locally-tailored solutions for narrowing the digital divide.
Communities apply to ConnectHomeUSA which selects cohorts annually. Designated communities receive:
- Commitments, special offers, and resources from ConnectHomeUSA stakeholders that include T-Mobile, Comcast, AT&T, ABC Mouse, Cox, and organizations that support learning
- Direct technical assistance from EveryoneOn and HUD for help with local efforts and best practices
- Access to a mentorship community to help guide progress
- Access to the ConnectHomeUSA Portal, which includes resources created and curated for ConnectHomeUSA
- Data collection and analysis through HUD
- Exclusive opportunities from EveryoneOn for ConnectHomeUSA communities
- Monthly webinars and newsletters providing timely guidance and content
- Annual Summits (this year’s summit took place virtually in October)
The Atlantic City Housing Authority (ACHA) is partnering with Empowerment Tools Coalition, which provides tools to enhance, encourage and enlighten community-based organizations through grant writing, training, coalition building, and business resources. The ACHA is currently in negotiations with a service provider to bring low-cost or free internet service to residents, as well as partnering with local government to make Atlantic City a wireless “hot spot.” There will be kiosks throughout Atlantic City Housing Authority properties and the City to allow residents to access the internet, charge their electronic devices, and obtain emergency information.
“It is particularly urgent in 2020 for Housing Authorities to develop new systems, new ways of reaching out to our resident families during this time of quarantine,” said Tom Hannon, Atlantic City Public Housing Authority Executive Director. “By working through ConnectHomeUSA and our community partners, we not only hope to bridge the gap of the digital divide, we also hope that we can help our families overcome issues of isolation, loneliness and despair during this or any future quarantine.”
The Housing Authority of the City of Elizabeth (HACE) is working with the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program (NJMEP). As part of their joint commitment to ConnectHomeUSA, HACE and NJMEP will work together to help take part in skill-based training that will propel them towards employment opportunities and education. The HACE computer lab will be upgraded. Low cost, high-speed internet access, and devices will allow residents to access and complete job applications, enroll in online classes and training, complete GED requirements, obtaining higher education, and participate in all aspects of HUD’s Jobs Plus program. The HACE and ConnectHomeUSA initiative will assist residents that due to the COVID-19 pandemic must work from home.
“The Housing Authority of the City of Elizabeth (HACE) is pleased to have been selected to participate in HUD’s ConnectHomeUSA initiative,” said Executive Director, William D. Jones. “We plan to leverage such opportunities presented by ConnectHomeUSA to enhance our Jobs Plus Initiative Program and bridge the digital divide. Our goals include the following: to be able to educate our children, to empower our families and to enlighten our seniors. We will also expand our intergenerational technological communications program and tablet distribution to all of our residents so they, too, can have access to online learning and social services during this unprecedented time in our history,” he added.
The Phillipsburg Housing Authority partnered with Community Prevention Resources of Warren County, Inc (CPRWC) which provides educational programming and employment opportunities. CPRWC has strong partnerships throughout the county and brings the experience, management, and partnerships that are needed to help residents of the county access the training and resources they need to improve their economic prospects.
“We at the Phillipsburg Housing Authority are both honored and excited for the opportunities we will receive by the designation as a ConnectHomeUSA community. Today, low-cost internet and broadband access is not a luxury but a necessity to the students, families, and elderly residents that we serve. The opportunity for us to collaborate with the stakeholders that have made a commitment to the ConnectHomeUSA initiative is an unparalleled resource that would otherwise be unavailable to us,” said Paul Rummerfield, Executive Director, Phillipsburg Housing Authority.
ConnectHome began as a pilot program in 2015, and HUD and EveryoneOn have worked together to support the 100 selected communities located around the nation.
Successful applicants have a dedicated staff person, a strong relationship with municipal government and programs; committed local partners, and robust resident engagement.
The Camden and Newark housing authorities were selected ConnectHome communities in 2015, and the Jersey City Housing Authority was selected in 2018. The ConnectHomeUSA initiative lasts three years. In 2020, three of only 13 selected communities in the nation were in New Jersey.