During Tuesday's County Commission Meeting, commissioners reviewed a request related to a digital equity grant. The request, stemming from the County's American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, was granted on August 15, 2023, allocating $100,000 to support local initiatives addressing the digital divide within the community.
The grant program initiated with an informational webinar on September 20, 2023, followed by the posting of grant applications on the same day. The deadline for submission was October 17, resulting in five applications received.
Following the Commission's directive on August 15, the County Public Information Officer enlisted a Review Committee to assess and provide recommendations for the grant applications. The committee, comprising notable individuals who volunteered their time, convened via Zoom on October 24 to deliberate.
The Review Committee endorsed all five applications, each receiving high ratings. The recommended grants are as follows:
- A $20,630 grant to the Salina Area United Way to support the creation of an access point for free internet and digital device use, including laptops and printers, benefiting activities such as homework, job searching, and training.
- A $16,378 grant to the Salina Grace Foundation for the Digital Equity for the Homeless project, involving the setup of an internet Wi-Fi system for guests, along with laptops and workstations for basic computer skills training.
- An $8,600 grant to Salina Media Connection for 10 monthly Spanish Connection programs and quarterly in-person digital literacy classes targeting the Spanish-speaking community.
- A $4,425 grant to the Salina Public Library to expand their Hotspot Lending Program by purchasing 25 Franklin T10 Hotspot devices.
- A $3,397 grant to the Salina Public Library for a Youth Robotics Club, providing robotics workshop kits for youths aged 13 to 17.
The total funding to be awarded amounts to $53,430, utilizing a portion of the $100,000 allocated for the grant program. Importantly, the County has sufficient funds on hand to fulfill these awards, as federal funds like the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund are not subject to Kansas budget laws.
The motion to approve the recommended grants was approved 5-0.