CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nearly 56,000 households in Mecklenburg County have no internet access, according to the Center for Digital Equity at Queens University of Charlotte. In many of those cases, no computers or laptops are inside the households.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is helping to close that digital divide, thanks to newly awarded grant fund project.
The library system received an $8 million-grant funded by the Emergency Connectivity Fund.
Those dollars were used to provide around 20,000 refurbished laptops to families in the county at no charge.
Volunteers assisted residents with getting the free devices during a distribution event at the AvidXchange.
Emery Ortiz is the chief strategy and innovation officer for the Charlotte Meckleng Library.
She says the event is part of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s MeckTech Program, to ensure adults have digital resources for work, health and educational purposes.
"We know there may be as many as 50,000-60,000 households [in Mecklenburg County] that do not have access to a desktop computer or laptop," Ortiz said. "That digital equity piece, we want to make sure everyone has the same opportunities to achieve whatever their goals may be."
Charline Pough is one of many Charlotte residents that received a free laptop.
Pough says it had been extremely difficult for her family to access a computer, especially her grandchildren.
"We have not been able to get to the libraries," Pough said.
She says the distribution event has provided her grandchildren what they need to flourish academically.
"The children are going into a reading program this summer. They'll be able to access [what they need]," Pough said.
The registration period for free laptops is closed.
However, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has partnered with the CDE to assist families currently without no internet.
The CDE is offering an Affordable Connectivity Program to support people who need internet options.
CDE Program Director Ameera Bartholomew says it's a federal program that will reduce internet bills by $30 for qualifying residents.
"It's really important that you have an affordable connection so you can actually use your device at home," Bartholomew said. "Anyone in the county can call 311, ask to speak to a digital navigator, and you'll get one of us with the CDE. We can help you with getting a portable device, getting classes for digital literacy, as well as signing up for the Affordable Connectivity Program."