Per Montgomery County: A new school year is about to start, and for some low-income residents without computers or the ability to pay for home or mobile internet, Montgomery County is trying to provide help through its continued program of giving away free computers and subsidized internet service. The next distribution of free computers will be from noon-4 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 16, at the Germantown American Job Center.
The Maryland Connected Device Chromebook laptop computers are funded by a $7 million grant from the State of Maryland. The laptops are being distributed through the Montgomery Connects program, operated by the County’s Department of Technology & Enterprise Business Solutions (TEBS). Mobile and internet connectivity subsidies are available through the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
The County is holding seven distribution events and will have 4,000 laptop Chromebook computers to distribute to families between now and the start of the school year on Aug. 28. Families are limited to one Chromebook per household and only one per address.
“Every family needs a computer and internet in order for students to succeed in school,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “Bridging the digital divide is critical to our equity efforts. Everyone must access this technology and it is imperative that we make sure that cost is not a barrier for families who need these tools. I urge all parents with lower incomes to make an appointment to pick up one computer per household and to get help to enroll in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) to receive up to $45 per month off their home or mobile internet bill.”
Households earning less than 200 percent of the Federal poverty rate (for example, earning less than $39,440 for a two-person household) or enrolled a benefit program such as free school lunch, SNAP food benefits or Medicaid, are eligible to pick up one free laptop computer per household before the start of the school year.
“We know that all school children need internet at home for homework and parents need robust home internet for work, daily life, and to stay connected.” said Gail M. Roper, the director of TEBS and the County’s chief information officer. “But of the estimated 114,000 Montgomery County households that are eligible to have ACP cover all the costs of their home or mobile internet, just under 20,000 have enrolled in the ACP internet discount program.”
Help to enroll in ACP is available in English and Spanish at every computer distribution event or residents can call 301-405-9810 for help to enroll in ACP.
Qualifications to receive a computer include:
- Parent or child must be enrolled in a benefit program, such as free school lunch, SNAP food benefits, Medicaid (not regular Medicare), WIC, SSI (not regular Social Security), Pell Grants for college students or Housing Choice Vouchers or Project-Based Rental Assistance.
- The household must be enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity or Lifeline internet or telephone discount programs.
- The household must earn less than 200 percent of the Federal poverty rate ($29,160 for a one-person household, $39,440 for a two-person household, $49,720 for a three-person household, $60,000 for a four-person household—and $10,280 for each additional person in the household).
After making an appointment to pick-up a computer online or by telephone, eligible residents must bring the following items to their pick-up appointment:
- Photo identification
- Proof of address. If a person is using a Photo ID without an address (such as a passport), they must bring a piece of mail or online bill showing their address.
- Proof of enrollment in a benefit program or proof of income by bringing:
- A SNAP or Medicaid card.
- ACP or Lifeline program on an internet bill.
- First page of their income tax return (a W-2 or paystub cannot be used because a person may have more than one job).
- Enrollment letter showing the benefit program name, date and notice of eligibility.
The program will prioritize Montgomery County residents 7 and older who have not received a computer from the County under a previous program. Community members do not have to be a U.S. citizen but must be a Maryland resident.
Assistance to enroll in the ACP internet discount program is available at every Montgomery Connects computer distribution event. People do not need appointments to get help to enroll in ACP. ACP offers up to $45 per month off home internet or mobile phone internet service.
Representatives from Comcast Xfinity, Verizon FiOS and Wireless, T-Mobile and other service providers are at most events to help get discounts applied to accounts after enrolling in ACP.
Households are eligible for ACP using the same criteria as the Maryland Connected Devices computer program above.
The schedule for upcoming computer distribution events:
- Wednesday, Aug. 16. Noon-4 p.m. Germantown American Job Center, 12900 Middlebrook Rd., Germantown
- Friday, Aug. 18. 3-7 p.m. Executive Office Building Cafeteria, 101 Monroe St., Rockville
- Saturday, Aug. 19. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. East County Community Recreation Center, 3310 Gateshead Manor Way, Silver Spring
- Tuesday, Aug. 22. 3-7 p.m. Germantown Community Center, 18905 Kingsview Rd, Germantown
- Wednesday, Aug. 23. 3-7 p.m. Long Branch Community Recreation Center, 8700 Piney Branch Rd. Silver Spring
- Thursday, Aug. 24. 3-7 p.m. White Oak Community Recreation Center, 1700 April Ln., Silver Spring
- Saturday, Aug. 26. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. East County Community Recreation Center, 3310 Gateshead Manor Way, Silver Spring
Eligible residents must have an email address to make an appointment online at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/computer. If a resident needs assistance to make an appointment, call the Marylander Online Help Hotline at 301-405-9810, from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday to Friday or from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday. Help is available in English and Spanish and in other languages upon request.
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