LEONARDTOWN, MD – In a significant step toward ensuring equal access to technology, St. Mary’s County Government (SMCG) has announced a groundbreaking plan to distribute 4,500 HP Chromebooks to local households that fall at or below the national poverty level. The initiative aims to bridge the digital divide by providing essential resources to those who need them most.
Under the program, households participating in various assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, WIC, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA), Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit, Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program, and those who have received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year automatically qualify for the free Chromebooks.
To be eligible for the program, households must provide proof of residency and income verification or documentation of participation in one of the qualifying programs. Each qualifying address is limited to one device.
James Randy Guy, Commissioner President of St. Mary’s County, emphasized the importance of internet access and current technologies in everyday life. He expressed his enthusiasm for the initiative, stating, “This initiative will help to bridge the digital divide by delivering valuable resources to those in our community who need them most.”
The distribution of Chromebooks is scheduled to begin in June 2023. Multiple distribution sites will be set up across St. Mary’s County to cater to the demand, with specific times and locations to be announced soon. Interested individuals can find the schedule of distribution dates, pre-register, or obtain additional information by visiting stmaryscountymd.gov/fasttrac. While pre-registration is encouraged, it is not mandatory. For more information, senior citizens can contact any of the St. Mary’s County Senior Activity Centers.
Bob Kelly, the Director of Information Technology at SMCG, highlighted the comprehensive range of services that will be offered on the distribution days. These services include tech support from the University of Maryland Extension Office and assistance with enrolling in internet assistance programs.
The initiative is part of the Fast TRAC program, funded by the Connected Devices Grant from the Maryland Office of Statewide Broadband. Its objective is to empower citizens by providing them with training, resources, affordability programs for internet service or technology needs, and assistance in obtaining broadband connectivity to their homes.
St. Mary’s County Government expressed gratitude to its partners, including the Commissioners of St. Mary’s County, St. Mary’s County Department of Aging and Human Services, St. Mary’s County Department of Recreation and Parks, St. Mary’s County Housing Authority, St. Mary’s County Libraries, St. Mary’s County NAACP 7025, St. Mary’s County Public Schools, St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, St. Mary’s County Health Department, St. Mary’s County Department of Social Services, the Minority Outreach Coalition, and the Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions.
The distribution of 4,500 HP Chromebooks to low-income households in St. Mary’s County signifies a significant stride toward ensuring equitable access to technology. The program aims to bridge the digital divide by providing essential resources and support and empowering residents with the tools they need to thrive in an increasingly connected world.