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Recent News | May 18, 2020
Many of the inequities that existed in our communities before the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic are being exacerbated and starkly highlighted now, and this is especially true of what we call “the digital divide.”
The Problem: “Accessing the Internet has become a prerequisite to full and meaningful participation in society.” – Federal Communications Commission
Having a computing device and affordable and reliable internet access is now not only simply important for individual well-being and self-sufficiency, but in the event of pandemic, has become an actual lifeline for persons everywhere to continue to work, access care and services, and connect with loved ones and the outside world. Under the best of circumstances, internet access is associated with improved health outcomes and less social isolation; connecting to the internet is increasingly the way people learn, access health care information, share news, pay bills, and interact with the government. However, low-income renters – particularly seniors – are far less likely to have internet access or computing equipment at home. This persistent digital divide in the U.S. exacerbates economic inequality and risks leaving the poor even further behind.
Nationally, nearly 70% of very low-income senior renters do not have a computer and 74% do not have home internet access, with many even relying on government subsidies for limited cell phone service as their only means of contact with the outside world as they shelter in place. This comes at a time when care providers are reporting exponential increases in telehealth visits, but a large majority of our residents, most of whom have chronic medical conditions, don’t have the resources needed to conduct such visits remotely. At a time like this, this leaves them quite literally cut off from the care, services, and support systems they need to remain healthy and thriving.
To help achieve affordable broadband connectivity for all residents of affordable senior housing, policy action, and collaborative investments are needed at all levels of government, in addition to the private affordable housing and philanthropic communities. The National Housing Council Connectivity Working Group, in which National Church Residences has participated, has identified the following recommendations to effectively realize this goal:
Written by Megan Kelley, Vice President of Public Policy & Government Relations
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