As part of their continued collaboration with Cleveland Public Library to provide digital resources to local families, PCs for People is offering 10,000 free computers and hotspots to qualified Cuyahoga County residents who need them most during the pandemic.
PCs for People executive director Bryan Mauk said the need for free computers and hotspots is significant in Cleveland, with the city having recently been named one of the Worst Connected U.S. Cities of 2019 by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. Mauk said he’s now hoping to change that by giving away hotspots and computers for people to keep for free, so long as they qualify for the program.
“I would say it’s about a third of households just need a computer, a third need just internet and a third need both,” Mauk said. He added that the new initiative is an expansion of their longtime partnership with Cleveland Public Library, which has been renting out PCs for People hotspots to members for the past three years.
Enter COVID-19, which Mauk said made owning a computer and having internet access even more of a necessity as pretty much everyone was forced to apply social distancing measures and conduct business online, from senior citizens and students to potential job seekers.
To qualify, potential recipients must be 200 percent below the poverty level or be enrolled in an income-based government assistance program, according to the PCs for People website. If eligible, seniors and job seekers can call 216-777-4441 or email [email protected] for additional information, while families who want equipment for their K-12 or charter school students can apply at pcsforpeople.org/ohio before picking it up.
According to Mauk, computers and hotspots will be available for pickup at the South Brooklyn, West Park and Woodland branches of the Cleveland Public Library. The Collinwood Branch on East 152 Street will host a pop-up computer distribution event between 1 and 4 p.m. on Nov. 23, with residents being encouraged to pre-register via forms available at the library.
“So schools are always in the spotlight now with digital learning, but there are many populations that have been affected,” Mauk said. “Senior citizens (are) one of the most vulnerable populations due to COVID. Being forced by the virus to stay home, not to see family, not to have things like Facebook and video chats to see their children and grandchildren.”
“Unemployed folks who need a job, almost all of the job market has moved online through COVID. From doing job applications to Zoom interviews, the onboarding process is almost entirely online.”
Mauk added that the library’s involvement is crucial for this program because it will help them distribute hardware more easily. The program’s goal is to distribute more than 10,000 computers in Cuyahoga County.
“There’s just no way we could physically get all those people to come into our store,” Mauk said. “Being able to partner with the Cleveland libraries for curbside pickup was huge in being able to let us reach people in a socially-distanced manner.”
Having graduated from Kent State in May of 2019, Collin Cunningham is a freelance journalist who has recently moved to Tremont. When he’s not writing or reporting, Collin likes to read, bike the city and spend time with his two lionhead rabbits, Curtis and Cloud.