New programs aimed at helping children access internet in Kansas

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Many families have been struggling during the pandemic because they haven’t been able to easily access learning materials for their children on the internet.

Two new programs are trying to change that. They both come from funding from the CARES Act.

One is for $1.5 million dollars. The goal is to help families with children five years old and younger that don’t have access to the internet. Organizations can apply for grants that they will provide to families that need the assistance.

“What we have been doing is taking an iPad to their home, with Zoom on it, and dropping it off and letting them use it, and then picking it up and bringing it back, cleaning it, and using it for the next family,” said Cathie Huckins, director of children’s services at TARC.

TARC serves people with disabilities in Shawnee County. It is getting grants that can help 20 families with children up to three years old.

“What we’re hoping this will do is allow us to provide some of those devices for those families so they can use them the whole time,” Huckins said.

She said this will be crucial for kids to continue learning.

“We’re able to provide them with some strategies, interventions, and knowledge so that their child’s development will be the best they can be,” Huckins said.

It will also let families have visits with their doctors that they may have not been able to do before.

Other organizations, like parents as teachers groups throughout the state are also receiving grants to help young children. So far, 40 organizations have been chosen to give out money to 1,700 families.

“It’s the hardware and service needed to get families connected,” said Melissa Rooker, director of the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund, the group in charge of distributing the money.

“It’s both addressing situations where a family is in a community where internet isn’t available readily, so the hotspots and data plans can be brought in, or it’s for families that don’t have the means to acquire the equipment needed to log in to the internet,” Rooker said.

The other will project will provide money to organizations that will help provide internet access to children so they can attend virtual school. $40 million in grants can be used to acquire more space or resources to give kids a place to stay and be safe. Organizations like childcare facilities, Boys and Girls Clubs, and YMCAs could apply for funding.

“That they have safe sites for that kind of supervised program where the kids can log in and attend class with their teachers and classmates,” Rooker said. “Be supervised by adults on their end of things, have questions answered when school is not in session online but there’s work to do.”

You can view the applications for the grants here.

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