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Arva Rice, Pres/CEO NY Urban League Statement at Mayor’s Digital Divide Press Conference

Arva Rice, CEO NY Urban League

The city will expand broadband internet access to another 600,000 New Yorkers as a part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to speed up an existing “Internet Master Plan” and close the digital divide in low-income communities of color.
They’ll get internet service for $15 a month over the course of the next 1.5 years, de Blasio announced. The city said it would work with minority- and women-owned businesses to train people to install and operate the broadband infrastructure to create jobs in local communities. Neighborhoods included Brownsville and East New York would be targeted for expanded internet access.

Arva Rice, President and CEO of the New York Urban League, was invited to speak as part of the televised press conference held by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity to announce the accelerated Internet Master Plan to support communities hardest-hit by COVID-19.
“The pandemic is exacerbating the digital divide,” said Arva Rice, President and CEO of the New York Urban League. “I am pleased to be part of the Mayor’s announcement that the City listened to our issue and has developed a bold response that will not only lead to better computer access but will also provide opportunities for minority owned businesses.” 
During his press conference on July 7, 2020, Mayor de Blasio announced the New York City Internet Master Plan, a “bold vision for affordable, high-speed, reliable broadband service that offers seamless connectivity at home and on the go and that will address gaps in the market, close the digital divide and deliver universal broadband to all New Yorkers.”
According to the statement, “The City will accelerate broadband deployment in all five boroughs, prioritizing public housing communities, which have suffered disproportionately during the COVID-19 pandemic. The City will make a historic $157 million investment in ending digital redlining and providing high-speed internet, including $87 million redirected from the NYPD budget. This investment will extend new internet service options to 600,000 underserved New Yorkers, including 200,000 NYCHA residents over the next 18 months.“

Statement by Arva Rice, Pres/CEO NY Urban League Statement
“Good Morning. I am Arva Rice President and CEO of the New York Urban League.  When the Mayor established the Taskforce for Racial Inclusion and Equity they were tasked with contacting community leaders to hear about our pressing issues and ways that COVID had impacted our communities and business operations. At that time, I was being asked to participate in a lot of surveys, but I took special care in completing this one because when activated correctly government policies and practices can positively change people’s lives. The Mayor had appointed the First Lady and Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson to lead this effort. So I believed that the leadership was in place with the political will to address one of the issues I was compelled to address in my survey. COVID has exacerbated the digital divide that we already knew existed. The divide was keeping our 1.1 million public school children from being able to complete school work that went from in classroom to 100% virtual studies over the course of a weekend. The divide kept families from being able to look for employment options and complete job applications.  The divide kept families from being able to be counted in the census. The divide kept nonprofit organizations from being able to easily pivot to virtual offerings and track their community members information digitally.    
1.5 million people in the City, mainly low-income people of color, lack both home and wireless broadband service. This makes it harder for the City’s most vulnerable people to access work, education, telehealth, mental health supports, and the kind of training that might enable them to obtain a living wage. Community members across the city told the Taskforce that the pandemic is exacerbating the digital divide. Today I am pleased to be part of the Mayor’s announcement that the City listened to our issue and has developed a bold response that will not only lead to better computer access but will also provide opportunities for minority owned businesses.  

Thank you for reinvesting money that was previously in NYPD capital budget for 600,000 NYCHA and low-income residents to get the tools they need as we recover from COVID.  I am told that by the end of this year, tens of thousands of NYCHA households will have access to new, low-cost broadband options; over the next 18 months, that number will grow to 600,000 people by end of 2021. All provided with new lower-cost high-speed internet of $15/month or less – which is indeed good news.

Lastly I am excited at the opportunities that this creates for small business development.  We all know that small businesses have been hit hard by COVID-19 and it is predicted that over 40% of African-American owned businesses may never open their doors again.   The Mayor has promised to work in collaboration with the State to end sweetheart deals for big companies and start generating revenue to fund digital equity, investing in infrastructure and digital inclusion resources. The City will also work to amend century old legislation that could pave the way for smaller companies and MWBEs to enter the market.
In this time of uncertainty, economic challenge and social unrest, New Yorkers need no nonsense solutions that will have big results. Thank you Mayor DeBlasio and the Task Force for Racial Inclusion and Equity for this commitment. “

The New York Urban League, an affiliate of the National Urban League, is a 501 (c)(3) civil rights organization enabling African-Americans and other underserved ethnic communities to secure a first-class education, economic self-reliance, and equal respect of their civil rights through programs, services, and advocacy in this highly diversified city. 
The New York Urban League has established a Covid-19 Family Relief Fund for African American children and families which will provide direct cash grants to assist with rent, utilities and other bill payment during the pandemic. NYUL’s Relief Fund will provide cash grants of up to $1000 to families and college students affected by COVID-19. Grants will be made available to NYUL education and employment clients and Whitney M. Young, Jr. college scholarship recipients. These rapid response grants will be administered on a rolling basis.

By cultivating curiosity and developing a rigorous work ethic within our underserved youth through STEM/STEAM programs at a younger age, The New York Urban League can provide the children of our communities with fruitful educational careers that will set them up for success throughout their lives. A few ways we do so:
Code Next, a Google program offered in collaboration with Harlem Boys & Girls Club and ELiTE, is a computer science education program for Black and Latino high school students. Every Saturday, participants learn programming languages and create projects that develop them into the next generation of tech leaders
STEAM Summer Academy is a fun and interactive program that allows students to explore the intersections of all the STEAM subjects.

Parent’s Guide to STEAM – Together with our partners, we have developed and distributed 100,000 copies of the Parent’s Guide to STEAM and provide an accompanying workshop. Parents that help connect STEM learning in school to the home, will lead to STEM fluency for students.

Learn more about The New York Urban League’s educational programs at  https://www.nyul.org/education

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