WASHINGTON, March 10, 2021—The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 passed the House on Wednesday, paving the way for its signing by President Joe Biden.
The $1.9-trillion bill passed the Senate with amendments on March 6 and returned to the House, where it passed by a vote of 220-211.
The stimulus package, among myriad other things, is set to provide $7.2 billion for the Emergency Connectivity Fund. Though this amount falls around $400-million short of what the fund initially called for, it will still seek to address significant issues facing Americans, such as the homework gap.
The ECF would expand the E-Rate program in order to provide addition resources for students and teachers who may lack broadband access at home.
“The nation’s Homework Gap has never been more evident than during this pandemic with the move to remote learning,” FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “So, passage of the American Rescue Plan which would create the Emergency Connectivity Fund is welcome news.”
Rosenworcel added that as many as 17 million children lack high speed internet access, with minority students being disproportionately likely to go without broadband.
John Windhausen, executive director of the Schools Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition and longtime supporter of expanding the E-Rate, said that this legislation was vital to give students the tools they needed to achieve academic success.
“In a word, this legislation is groundbreaking,” Windhausen stated. “This legislation gives schools and libraries the legal authority and financial means to solve the homework gap for millions of children and learners of all ages.”
Though the American Rescue Plan Act received very limited support from Republican legislators in both the Senate and the House, multiple polls have reflected widespread public support for it. In a joint effort by Morning Consult and Politico, 60 percent of Republicans stated they either “strongly support” or “somewhat support” the relief package.