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HUD Takes Further Action to Close the Digital Divide

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has opened a new round of applications for the expansion of the ConnectHomeUSA (CHUSA) initiative so that more HUD-assisted families have access to affordable internet.

CHUSA is HUD’s signature digital inclusion program that assists Public Housing Authorities (PHAs), Tribes, and Multifamily housing providers build programs that help their residents connect to affordable internet service and computer devices, while also providing them with digital skills training. CHUSA was launched in 2015 to close the homework gap in 28 pilot communities. Since that time, 100 communities have participated in the CHUSA program, which is widely recognized by practitioners as an effective strategy for closing the digital divide.

CHUSA was first launched in 2015 as “ConnectHome,” a pilot program designed to test whether the public, private and nonprofit sectors could work together to narrow the digital divide locally. After significant initial success in 2017, HUD expanded the program in partnership with the nonprofit EveryoneOn, rebranded it as “ConnectHomeUSA,” and in 2020, achieved its goal of onboarding 100 communities across the country.

“HUD is committed to ensuring families and their children have access to affordable and reliable internet,” said HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “The ConnectHomeUSA Initiative helps to bridge the digital gap so that families have equitable access to broadband resources so that they can succeed.”

The expansion of ConnectHomeUSA builds on HUD Secretary Fudge’s commitment to advancing digital equity and ensuring that families are connected to affordable internet. Earlier this summer, HUD signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to encourage enrollment in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) for HUD-assisted families.

In 2023, HUD has helped organize and facilitate more than 45 ACP enrollment events with community partners across the nation. The ACP offers low-income households discounts off the cost of broadband service and connected devices.

The ConnectHomeUSA expansion is composed of two parts, which includes a 60-day public comment section which asks reviewers to comment on HUD’s proposed redesign of the CHUSA program into a three-tiered system, and instructions for submitting a letter of intent to be considered as CHUSA as an expansion community.

Under the current redesign, there are three tiers for communities of interest:

  • Tier 1 communities include communities that may be somewhat familiar with the concepts of digital equity or digital inclusion, but may be unsure how to bridge the digital divide in their own communities. HUD is looking to accept between 50-100 new communities in this tier.
  • Tier 2 communities include existing CHUSA communities. There is no limit to the number of communities that HUD will accept in this tier.
  • Tier 3 communities will not be accepted at this time. Instead, Tier 3 will be reserved for communities that achieve key benchmarks along their CHUSA journey.

HUD is accepting applications from December 19th, 2023, until February 15th, 2024 for the program.

On January 11 from Noon-1:00 p.m. Central, CHUSA staff will host a webinar titled, “Steps for Applying to Join the ConnectHomeUSA Expansion,” discussing the expansion and application process. Click here to register for the event.

About Author: Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck has 20-plus years’ experience covering the mortgage industry, he most recently served as Editor-in-Chief for The Mortgage Press and National Mortgage Professional Magazine. Peck graduated from the New York Institute of Technology where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts/Media. After graduating, he began his professional career with Videography Magazine before landing in the mortgage space. Peck has edited three published books and has served as Copy Editor for Entrepreneur.com.

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