Gov’t gets $90M to pay for internet service for public school students, teachers
Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez announced the allocation of $90 million in federal funds to subsidize the cost of internet connections for all public school students and teachers, which they will be able to request through Nov. 30, 2020.
The aid, available through the CARES Act, will be up to $400 per participant and will cover the entire school year through May 2021. This year’s student population is estimated at 276,413 students, while there are 26,893 public school teachers across the Puerto Rico Department of Education, the governor said.
Applicants may choose among providers participating in the program so far: Aeronet; Optical Fiber; DM Wireless; Neptuno; Claro Puerto Rico; Urban Networks; and VPnet. The providers must be registered with the Puerto Rico Treasury Department and the Telecommunications Bureau and must provide a monthly report of the services offered.
The telecom companies will waive a credit check to provide the service and will keep records of the transactions through the Treasury Department’s fiscal systems, the governor said.
The program establishes that applicants will have to pay for fees that exceed the $400 subsidy. In the case of families with more than one student, the subsidy may be used to increase broadband capacity. They will also be able to expand connectivity with by buying wireless hotspots, depending on the selected company’s inventory.
Authorized providers will validate a participant’s eligibility, which in the case of students will be confirmed by parents or guardians. They must provide the student’s full name, the ID number that appears on the report card, and their date of birth. Teachers will need to have their employee number, photo ID, date of birth, place of employment, and the last four digits of their Social Security number.
Education Secretary Eligio Hernández-Pérez said classroom teachers, librarians, principals, social workers and professional counselors qualify for the subsidy.
The Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority, or AAFAF, headed the local government’s efforts to identify federal funds, while Treasury implemented the electronic system to validate and disburse the aid. The Education Department, for its part, shared the official enrollment data during this school year, as well as the information on teachers who qualify for federal aid, AAFAF Executive Director Omar Marrero said.