SPRINGFIELD — During a visit to Springfield on Jan. 5, Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced new programs to boost internet connectivity statewide, including a subsidy program to assist job seekers in the MassHire system that are facing a technology barrier. In addition, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) at the MassTech Collaborative will expand a wi-fi hotspot program statewide, delivering free, high-speed access points to gateway cities, helping expand internet accessibility in areas hard-hit economically by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new subsidy program, called Mass. Internet Connect, is being launched this week by the MBI in partnership with the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, working with 29 MassHire one-stop career centers on the rollout of the program. The MBI is collaborating with internet service providers across the state, including Comcast, Charter, and Verizon, to offer subsidies and devices to job seekers. The internet subsidies and technology support will help keep job seekers connected to critical online resources and job search tools.
“The internet is critical to those seeking a new job, and these new programs recognize and aim to help solve connectivity challenges for people looking for work,” Baker said. “These investments will help to get and keep people connected, so they can continue to engage with prospective employers, access the trainings and services offered by MassHire and their partners, and ultimately get back into the workforce.”
Polito added that “these new programs are focused on jump-starting the economy by getting job seekers and others the means to stay connected. By ensuring that Massachusetts students and job seekers have the connections they need, we are maintaining the education and training that is so critical to our workforce pipeline here in the Commonwealth.”
MassHire will work with job seekers within their system to identify technology barriers and determine the best solution or combination of solutions, including online resources for digital literacy, an internet subsidy for those residing in a municipality with Charter or Comcast access, a personal cellular hotspot from Verizon for those in areas not served by Charter or Comcast, or referral to a partner vendor, HiQ, which is distributing Chromebooks to people without access to a device at home to conduct a job search.
“For those job seekers interested in getting assistance with their technology barriers, the first step is to get into the MassHire system,” said Rosalin Acosta, secretary of Labor and Workforce Development. “Being in that system allows us to provide the personalized services and unemployment support that each job seeker needs. These new programs will allow us to bridge the unique technology gaps that individual job seekers face, whether an affordability or access issue.”
The program will run through June 30, with the state covering the cost of subsidies for internet service and devices on behalf of the job seekers. Job seekers must be in the MassHire system to take advantage of the Mass. Internet Connect program. MassHire resources are available at www.mass.gov/topics/masshire. The MBI has participated in trainings for the 29 MassHire one-stop career centers located across the state, preparing them to identify and support those clients facing technology barriers.
“The pandemic has had a profound impact on our economy, but programs like these will help us battle back and put us on the path to recovery,” said Mike Kennealy, secretary of Housing and Economic Development. “In June, we saw unemployment reach a high of 17.7%, but that number has dropped to 6.7% in the last few weeks, with 12,000 new jobs added in November. We’re pleased with that progress, but are continuing to invest in programs like Mass. Internet Connect, which will get more people back to work.”