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CARES Act funds help provide Internet to children in Section 8 housing

Posted at 9:19 PM, Sep 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-24 22:19:20-04

WACO, TX — There's new hope for families in Waco after extra funding was dedicated to helping students from low income families who are learning from home.

The Waco Housing Authority says students who live in section 8 housing are struggling with connecting to their online courses. However, thanks an extra $200,000 in funding from the CARES Act, officials plan to use the funds to get students back online.

"Like we were already living paycheck to paycheck, and six months out of the year has been well I have a job, I don't have a job," explained Natalie McClure, who lives in Section 8 housing with her 7-year-old daughter.

McClure says the pandemic has made life difficult, and adding on the stress of back-to-school was choosing between in-person or virtual.

"There was this huge concern of like having Internet having the right equipment," she said.

According to the Waco Housing Authority, as of publication there are 2,183 families with school-aged children in McLennan County that rely on the the Housing Choice Voucher program for assistance.

"A child who is worried where he's going to rest his head, if there's gonna be food on the table, is not going to learn well in the classroom bottom line," said Milet Hopping, the President and CEO of the Waco Housing Authority.

Hopping says Section 8 complexes run on limited Internet and bandwith, but thanks to the extra funding, she plans to boost Internet access for students.

"Now we're gonna not have a parent worry about how far along their students are in keeping up with other students," said Hopping.

Waco Housing Authority is also partnering with districts like Waco ISD to find long-term ways to put the funds to use.

"Our kids to receive the instruction and offer the opportunities to move forward in life and take a different direction than they are in right now is priceless," said Jerry Allen, the Executive Director of Technology Services at Waco ISD.

Allen says 80% to 90% of the district's students are economically disadvantaged and hopes partnerships like the one with the Waco Housing Authority can help bridge the digital divide among students and level the playing field on academic achievement.

"We need our students to be successful, and we want to do everything, as much as we can, to make them successful, no matter what their economic status is," said Allen.

"Hearing about the new funding, I think it's an amazing opportunity not only to help families obviously through the pandemic, to help families long-term to be successful and find stability," said McClure.

The money will help provide families with extra bandwidth and even more Chromebooks or tablets if needed.

Waco ISD says they've also purchased an extra 5,000 Chromebooks and hotspots for families in need.