Massachusetts is offering to help the unemployed find work by providing subsidies for Internet access, and in some cases doling out free equipment.
Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito announced a program Tuesday at the Springfield Innovation Center that will offer subsidies and tech assistance to unemployed residents, with the goal of helping them find work.
Unemployed individuals are eligible for a subsidy if they live in a Charter or Comcast service territory; residents of other communities may be eligible for a personal cellular hot spot from Verizon. The agency implementing the new service, MassHire, is also connecting individuals with a vendor that is handing out Chromebooks if they do not have a device at home.
Dubbed, Mass. Internet Connect, the aid program runs through June 30. In order to be eligible for the program, job seekers must be a part of MassHire, which has nearly 30 career centers around the state and is also offering digital literacy classes.
“The internet is critical to those seeking a new job, and these new programs recognize and aim to help solve connectivity challenges for people looking for work,” Baker said in a press release. “These investments will help to get and keep people connected, so they can continue to engage with prospective employers, access the trainings and services offered by MassHire and their partners, and ultimately get back into the workforce.”
Rosalin Acosta, the state’s secretary of labor and workforce development, said, “Being in that system allows us to provide the personalized services and unemployment support that each job seeker needs.”
Baker also said the state would widen its existing WiFi hot spot program to include “gateway” cities and outer Cape Cod towns, while extending the current one in 30 underserved communities in Western and Central Massachusetts through June 30, with the option for some areas to add an indoor hot spot.
The Massachusetts Broadband Initiative will offer grants to communities that offer indoor hot spots, to purchase plexiglass dividers and to hire staff to monitor social distancing. The state will cover the costs of wireless equipment, installation, and monthly Internet service for these locations.
“For Massachusetts residents who are looking for a job, having Internet access is not a luxury, it’s essential to their search,” said Michael Caralis, director of Verizon’s public sector sales and operations, in a press release. “Working with the commonwealth and MassHire to obtain hotspots and unlimited data for job seekers without Internet access is one way Verizon can help with economic recovery efforts.”
All programs announced or enhanced Tuesday are part of the state’s $774 million economic recovery plan from October, which set aside $9.2 million for subsidizing internet for low-income communities and expanding hot spots.