SCUSA gives $35M grant to ‘bridge the digital divide’
Santander Consumer USA is looking to be a financial resource not just in vehicle deliveries.
Coinciding with the Martin Luther King Holiday, SCUSA announced on Monday that it is partnering with technology and community nonprofit Comp-U-Dopt to help “bridge the digital divide” in several cities in the U.S.
Funded by a $35 million multi-year grant from the Santander Consumer USA Foundation, the company and Comp-U-Dopt will provide free high-speed Internet connectivity, computers, training and support to eligible low-income residents who enroll in a lottery for the program in select cities.
SCUSA highlighted the program will begin with a $7 million investment in Dallas and expand during the next two years. The company explained the initiative is aimed at providing greater financial empowerment and overall well-being to communities who face challenges obtaining digital connectivity.
In Dallas, SCUCA and Comp-U-Dopt said they will target connectivity, laptops and digital skill-building resources to student households below 200 percent of the federal poverty level in the southern sector of the city, and deliver free:
— Reliable high-speed Internet for up to 10,000 student households
— Warrantied computers for student households (including bilingual help desk support)
— Education and training to boost student and caregiver digital skills
SCUSA pointed out many Dallas households still confront gaps in high-speed Internet access due to factors such as insufficient infrastructure, lack of affordability, and end user knowledge and skill needs.
According to a June 2021 Pew Research Institute study, more than 40% of households with lower incomes do not have reliable high-speed Internet or a personal computer.
The study also pointed out that accessing distance learning, telehealth, paying bills online, applying for jobs and reaching other support services requires that communities continue to invest in initiatives that close the digital divide sustainably.
“Today it is difficult, if not impossible, to find a job, complete schoolwork and connect with vital services without a computer or reliable Internet,” Santander Consumer USA chief executive officer Mahesh Aditya said in a news release. “Our program with Comp-U-Dopt looks to level the playing field, providing families and students with critical computer and digital resources to help them prosper and thrive.
“The digital divide is a solvable problem, and it is critical that we continue to invest in initiatives that provide students and families the tools they need to access additional resources,” Aditya continued.
Dallas mayor Eric Johnson cheered SCUSA’s decisions.
“As we build for our city’s future, we must work with our private and nonprofit partners to connect our neighborhoods with reliable high-speed Internet,” Johnson said in the news release. “By expanding Internet service in our historically underserved communities, we can improve educational outcomes, enhance workforce readiness, and increase access to critical services.
“We are grateful to Santander Consumer for recognizing the importance of this issue and for helping to make Dallas an even better place to live and work,” Johnson added.
The company pointed out that the Santander Consumer Foundation awarded the $35 million grant to national non-profit Comp-U-Dopt based on its inclusive mission and successful track record in underserved communities.
“We’re thrilled to collaborate with Santander Consumer, partner agencies, and local community members to achieve digital equity and advance a solution that provides a foundation for economic mobility and strengthens our community,” Comp-U-Dopt CEO Megan Steckly said.
Jennifer Sanders is executive director of the Dallas Innovation Alliance
“While the pandemic put a glaring spotlight on the digital divide, there are organizations whose vision for connecting communities to opportunity preceded 2020, and Santander Consumer USA is a prime example of that commitment,” Sanders said in the news release. “Since 2018 they have invested in digital access, which has provided critical support to the DIA Mobile Learning Lab.
“Through this program alone, we have reached thousands of students and members of the community in our city’s least connected neighborhoods because of Santander’s forward-thinking investment in our mission to create innovative solutions to complex challenges,” Sanders continued.
Mita Havlick is executive director of the Dallas Education Foundation, the non-profit philanthropic partner of the Dallas Independent School District.
“Santander Consumer has been a key supporter in our virtual classroom initiative since the start of the pandemic,” Havlick said in the news release. “This program with Comp-U-Dopt complements the work that we are doing and will be transformational for thousands of students and families.”