Mayor Michael A. Nutter, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco and Farah Jimenez, President and CEO of the People’s Emergency Center (PEC), presented the “Freedom Rings Partnership” at today’s opening of the PEC Computing Center. The opening of this location is one of 77 public computer centers opening across the City and providing digital literacy and workforce training opportunities. PEC’s computing center will provide free internet access, training and computer courses for young people and adults.
The “Freedom Rings Partnership” will create 177 full-time and part-time jobs. The 77 locations will be at new computer centers and expanded, existing computer centers, including 19 recreation centers, 29 community-based organization sites working with high-risk populations, 10 homeless shelters,15 other affordable housing sites and four mobile labs that will reach communities lacking space or the capacity to house a computer center.
The following organizations will also participate in the “Freedom Rings Partnership”:
▪Youth Outreach Adolescent Community Awareness Project
▪Philadelphia Opportunities Industrialization Center, Inc.
▪One Day At A Time
▪Free Library of Philadelphia
▪Department of Parks and Recreation
▪National Comprehensive Center for Fathers
▪Media Mobilizing Project
▪New America Foundation
▪Tenant Support Services, Inc.
“PEC already provides excellent computer literacy and training courses to vulnerable Philadelphians. This ARRA-funded program is an excellent way to continue that progress,” said Mayor Nutter. “Today, 41 percent of Philadelphians have no internet access. That means 41 percent of Philadelphians are not fully prepared to participate in the 21st century economy. All Philadelphians, in the 21st century, should have computer and internet access in their communities.”
Farah Jimenez said, “Every year, PEC serves hundreds of homeless families through its housing programs and hundreds of unemployed and underemployed Philadelphians through its employment and training programs. Whether going online to search for a home, access important benefits or apply for a job, our clients increasingly need to use the internet in order to take the most basic steps forward. With the launch of these 22 public computer centers, PEC is pleased to be working with the City of Philadelphia and its partners in helping to make that next step a little easier for Philadelphia’s most vulnerable families.”
A breakdown of the $25 million initiative, which is funded through the Federal American Recovery Reinvestment Act’s Broadband Technology Opportunity Program, is as follows:
- A $6.4 million Public Computing Centers Award provided to the City.
- An $11.8 million Sustainable Broadband Adoption Award to the Urban Affairs Coalition, the lead partnering organization.
- $3.3 million in matching funds provided by the City and other grant sub-recipients.
- $3.6 million in matching funds provided by the Urban Affairs Coalition and grant sub-recipients.
“I am delighted to be part of the opening of one of many new computer centers in West Philadelphia directly serving the area’s homeless population. These stimulus-funded computers and computer training will provide the People’s Emergency Center with another tool to help people get back on their feet,” said Councilwoman Blackwell.
Councilwoman Tasco added, “The ‘Freedom Rings’ partnership is bringing computers and internet access to communities across the city. It is an innovative partnership and creative use of stimulus funding. ‘Freedom Rings’ will have a lasting impact on the work readiness and skills of Philadelphians.”
In addition to the services that will be provided at citywide computer centers, the “Freedom Rings Partnership” will encourage Philadelphians to “get connected” to technology in their homes. The participating partners expect to serve approximately 15,000 people per year and through a citywide awareness campaign, more than 100,000 households are expected to receive information about the importance of broadband technology. According to John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Census data, approximately 41% of Philadelphians do not have access to internet service.
Citywide computing centers are scheduled to open from Spring through Summer of 2011. To learn about upcoming openings, the public is invited to call the Freedom Rings Partnership Hotline at 215.851.1990, call 3-1-1 or visit http://www.freedomringspartnership.com/.