Information provided by the Governor’s Office
CHICAGO, Ill. (December 16, 2020) – Governor JB Pritzker and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced an Illinois initiative to expand digital access for low-income households throughout the state. Through a partnership with PCs for People—a national nonprofit providing refurbished devices, Cook County, and numerous other community partners, the State of Illinois will launch a statewide network to deploy refurbished computers, digital literacy programming, and workforce development. The new Connect Illinois Computer Equity Network aims to put computers and other mobile devices into the hands of Illinois residents—assisting more families with access to high speed internet that is essential for e-learning, remote work, telehealth, and more.
Donate or request a device
To further expand digital access across the state, the Governor issued a call to action to public, private, and philanthropic sectors to donate used equipment and build on a network already set to deploy at least 20,000 refurbished computers annually for Illinois families. For more information on how to recycle technology or to apply for an upgraded device, please visit Illinois.gov/
Illinois households without access to a working computer or internet or those seeking to donate are encouraged to visit PCs for People’s website to register and learn more about how they can request a computer. To be eligible, residents must be below 200 percent of the poverty level or enrolled in income-based government assistance program, such as free and reduced school lunch, Medicaid, and SNAP.
“Today we are kicking this off by providing the first 20,000 devices to families in need all across the state,” Governor Pritzker said on Wednesday, December 16. “As we grow the program, it’s businesses and philanthropists that will make this program successful. In the spirit of the holiday season, I’m asking Illinois companies to join us in this effort, to help build on this initial down payment. When your upgrade cycle gets renewed and your old technology no longer fits the needs of your company, you can donate it, and it will be upgraded for use by a family in need.”
Great need for technology in a COVID world
While initial investments by the state and its corporate partners are paving the way to distribute 20,000 devices, the need is much greater, with an estimated 1.1 million households in Illinois without a computer at home, according to US Census data.
“The pandemic has laid bare the tremendous inequities in our communities, including access to technology and digital accessibility. This is particularly important during a time when residents are dependent on technology for remote work and education,” said Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle.
To keep up with high demand for devices and connectivity, PCs for People and the State of Illinois are urging businesses and individuals either to refurbish or recycle their technology using PCs for People’s zero-landfill approach. The organization provides free certified and secure data wiping, and all computer hard drives. To jumpstart the effort, the Jewish United Fund has provided $250,000 in critical seed funding to initiate the Cook County partnership. The State and its partners have already begun deploying devices through the Metro East location, which launched in September, with support from the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund.
PCs for People will operate the network with close involvement of the Illinois Office of Broadband and various community partners. The statewide network will include two central warehouse locations—one in southern Cook County and the other in the Metro East Region. Each centralized warehouse location will receive, refurbish, and redistribute computers for use by low-income households around the state. While the Metro East hub has been active since September, a new lease agreement with Cook County will allow PCs for People and the state to launch the second warehouse center in January 2021.