The joint initiative created in 2017 between the Community Foundation of Switzerland County Inc., Switzerland County Economic Development and the Switzerland County Government is pleased to announce that in partnership with the Switzerland County School Corporation, a grant of $50,000 has been awarded from the Jefferson County United Way COVID-19 Economic Relief Fund to benefit Switzerland County. The COVID-19 Economic Relief Fund was started by Lilly Endowment Inc. when they decided to provide funding to Indiana’s United Ways to help address the issues that communities in Indiana are facing due to the COVID-19 crisis. Since Switzerland County does not have a United Way, the Jefferson County United Way was appointed to cover our county.
During 2019, the community foundations and economic development corporations in the southeastern region of Indiana partnered to have a Purdue Broadband study completed. This study affirmed what we already knew and that was the fact that Switzerland County has limited broadband access in the county and there are still many areas that have no access to any form of high-speed internet.
The $50,000 grant will be administered by the Community Foundation and will provide funding for two projects that will help address the limited broadband access in Switzerland County on a temporary basis.
The first project is one that the Switzerland County School Corporation has been working on to address those students that do not have access to the internet during virtual school or e-learning days. When the school moved to e-learning for the last part of the school year due to the COVID-19 crisis, they learned that approximately 128 students were without internet access for various reasons. The school utilized left over Title I funds to purchase mobile hotspots to create a student loan program. Part of this COVID-19 Economic Relief grant will be used to cover the cost of twelve months of data access for the mobile hotspot loan program.
Also during the first part of the pandemic’s stay-at-home order, Switzerland County Economic Development’s staff learned that many people in Switzerland County struggled to apply for needed services, like unemployment benefits, since most services require participants to file online. The second part of this COVID-19 Economic Relief grant will cover the cost of purchasing and installing up to five public wireless internet locations around Switzerland County to assist individuals who do not have access to the internet. This project will focus on areas that are farthest away from other sources of public internet access, such as school campuses.
Both of these projects address immediate needs and will be implemented in the very near future. Long-term, the goal is to prove the growing need and demand for internet access in our county is viable enough to attract new internet service providers into Switzerland County.
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