The New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund (NJPRF) announced today that it has partnered with Prudential to invest $1 million to help bridge the digital divide in Newark exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“In today’s world, having access to a computer and internet access is not a luxury, but a necessity,” said New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy, the founding chair of NJPRF. “We are hopeful that our commitment - alongside that of others - will address this pressing need so students can continue learning through the pandemic.” 

Newark is receiving a $500,000 grant from NJPRF to match a $500,000 grant from Prudential that will provide funding for Newark Public Schools as well as funds for charter schools that will be distributed through the New Jersey Children’s Foundation.

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“As an anchor institution in Newark, Prudential is committing both financial and human capital resources to help close the digital divide,” said Stacey Goodman, chief information officer at Prudential Financial. 

“In addition to funds for laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots, we are privileged to provide IT helpdesk and cybersecurity support for Newark families and students navigating the challenges of a remote learning environment that have only been amplified by the pandemic," Goodman said.

When Newark closed its schools to in-person learning in March as the coronavirus pandemic began making its way through New Jersey, it exposed a “digital divide” in Newark with thousands of students unable to participate in remote learning because they lacked computer devices or Wi-Fi access at home. Without access, students in districts that have gone remote are at a major disadvantage.

“We are truly humbled and thankful for the generosity of both the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund and Prudential,” said Superintendent Roger León. “We all know the impact of the digital divide and these grants will help us tremendously as we ensure that every single child in the city of Newark has the technology they need to receive the top-flight education they deserve.”

Newark started the current school year remotely and does not expect to return to in-person learning until at least January 25. 

The NJPRF grant to Newark will allow the Newark Public School district to purchase higher end computers needed by students enrolled in career and technical education classes. Such classes typically require students to use sophisticated software that does not run on less expensive Chromebooks.

“This is another great example of NJPRF channeling the energy and resources of New Jersey to fill in the gaps and ensure every child has the equipment and access they need so that their education is not interrupted,” said NJPRF CEO Josh Weinreich.

Another $237,000 from NJPRF and Prudential will also be made available to charter schools who will be able to apply for the funding through the New Jersey Children’s Foundation, a Newark non-profit that works to support public education in the city.
“We are grateful for this major commitment to Newark children at such an important moment. Public education in the COVID-19 era will never be truly free if low income students don’t have access to the technology they need to learn, and these grants will help our local schools close that digital divide,” said Kyle Rosenkrans, the executive director of the New Jersey Children’s Foundation.

TAPinto Newark is a media sponsor of the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund.