CBS19: Legislation proposed to help veterans, students, and low-income individuals

CBS19, CHRIS CERBO

A piece of bipartisan legislation has been introduced by U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger, Rob Wittman, Elaine Luria and Denver Riggleman.

It would help provide students, veterans and low-income individuals with refurbished government computers. Nonprofit computer refurbishing companies would repair and distribute these computers to veterans, low-income individuals, students and seniors in need.

Former President Bill Clinton created the Computers for Learning (CFL) program with an overall goal of donating federal surplus computers to schools and educational nonprofits for reuse. However, the federal government is unable to transfer surplus computers to third-party computer refurbishers under the CFL, which has resulted in what lawmakers described as waste and inefficiency.

The bipartisan Computers for Veterans and Students Act would permit certified, nonprofit refurbishing companies to acquire, refurbish, and distribute surplus government computers. The legislation would also require the nonprofit computer refurbishing companies to provide training programs in the use of this technology.

“Our main mission in life is to eradicate veteran homelessness and poverty, by gifting a computer to those veterans and teaching them how to use it, and then they get to take that home to apply for jobs, create resumes, and stay in touch with family and friends via social media,” said the Executive Director of Tech for Troops, Mark Casper.

Casper also said the Veterans Affairs has been asked to provide them with 40,000 computers, and the hope is to be able to provide it with a couple hundred thousand within the next five years.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the inequities created by the digital divide, and for the millions of U.S. households without a desktop computer or laptop, this divide has been particularly challenging to navigate. Every American deserves equal access to opportunity, and our legislation is a step toward closing this opportunity gap and providing veterans, low-income students, and seniors with the tools they need to succeed,” said Spanberger. “The Computers for Veterans and Students Act would cut existing red tape, so that government computers no longer in use can be refurbished and provided to those in society who urgently need a helping hand. By partnering with nonprofits and recognizing a pressing need in our communities, our bipartisan bill is a commonsense step toward both eliminating government waste and making sure those who selflessly served are not left behind.”

Tech for Troops is a nonprofit organization that would help veterans and students receive the refurbished computers. The organization already provides the homeless, unemployed and disabled veterans as well as their families with the needed computer training in order to compete in an online-based economy.

It also recycles and re-purpose computers, laptops, network gear and other accessories. All proceeds from e-waste recycling are directly funded to veteran-focused education initiatives.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified and exacerbated the issues faced in areas without broadband access and has raised to the forefront the importance of broadband access in our society,” said Riggleman. “I am proud to cosponsor the Computers for Veterans and Students Act, which will provide low-income children and heroic American veterans with some of the tools they need.  This bipartisan bill will help address some of the health access and educational issues in communities in Virginia and across the nation.”

The legislation is expected to be passed and put on President Donald Trump’s desk by Christmas.

To read the full bill, click here.

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