WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07), Rob Wittman (R-VA-01), Elaine Luria (D-VA-02), and Denver Riggleman (R-VA-05) today introduced bipartisan legislation that would help provide federal surplus and retired computers to non-profit computer refurbishers, who would then repair and distribute these computers to veterans, low-income individuals, students, and seniors in need.
In 1996, President Bill Clinton created the Computers for Learning (CFL) program to create a mechanism to donate federal surplus computers to schools and educational non-profits for reuse. However, the federal government cannot transfer surplus computers to third-party computer refurbishers under the CFL. This restriction has resulted in waste and inefficiency, as many non-profits and schools lack funds to refurbish computers they receive through this program.
To fix this issue, the bipartisan Computers for Veterans and Students Act would allow certified, nonprofit refurbishing companies to directly obtain, refurbish, and distribute surplus government computers to serve veterans, students, and seniors in need. Additionally, the legislation would require each nonprofit computer refurbisher receiving computers to provide training programs in the use of this technology.
“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.”
“It is an honor to introduce this bipartisan legislation to help ensure veterans and students have the technology they need to be successful,” said Wittman. “This is a prime example of innovative non-profits working hand-in-hand with the government to provide effective solutions for our nation’s veterans. Throughout my time in Congress, I have been working hard to close the digital divide and to provide for those who fought for us. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid plain how important it is for all Americans to have access to technology, and this legislation helps provide access to the people who have served our nation and to those who need it most.”
“As we work to slow the spread of COVID-19, it is critical that we equip communities with the technological infrastructure they need to carry out necessary tasks,” said Luria. “The Computers for Veterans and Students Act will distribute surplus federal computers to those in need, such as veterans, students, persons with disabilities, low-income individuals, and seniors. This bipartisan bill has the potential to help many students and veterans in Coastal Virginia, and I am proud to co-lead this initiative.”
“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.”
An example non-profit that would help veterans and students receive these refurbished computers is Tech for Troops — a Virginia-based, veteran-staffed and operated organization. Tech for Troops provides homeless, unemployed, and disabled veterans and their families with the skills, computer technology, and IT workforce training to compete in an increasingly online-based economy. In addition to this work, they also recycle and repurpose working or non-working computers, laptops, network gear, and accessories — with all proceeds from e-waste recycling going directly to veteran-focused education initiatives.
“All of us here at Tech For Troops salute and thank Representatives Spanberger, Wittman, Luria, and Riggleman for supporting this legislation related to and for Military Veterans,” said Mark Casper, Executive Director, Tech for Troops. “By supporting this bill, you will allow Tech For Troops to directly make a powerful impact in the lives of Veterans and their families in need, here and across the entire country, with training and jobs that will benefit them now and our economy in the future while further enabling our turn-key e-waste solutions.”
Tech for Troops is a member of the Alliance for Technology Refurbishing and Reuse (AFTRR), which is comprised of more than 90 nonprofit computer refurbishers. AFTRR members — who would be example organizations eligible for the benefits of the Computers for Veterans and Students Act — are vetted and need to adhere to criteria, including: being a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in good standing, having a commitment to ending the digital divide, and ensuring that all e-waste go to certified recyclers.
Click here to read the full bill text.